Children Systematically Traumatized by being Left in the Arms of Strangers – And What You can Do about it.

Children Systematically Traumatized by being Left in the Arms of Strangers – And What You can Do about it.

Every single day I read stories from mothers who desperately seek support with how to handle he painstaking process of having to leave their child in the care of someone else, because they have to go back to work. Every single day I read about how that process goes horribly wrong, and how happy, cheerful children become withdrawn, aggressive and apathetic. Every single day I see these mothers desperately trying to find a solution, most often without luck, having to do something that everything inside them screams is not right, to leave their child in the arms of strangers.

Here in Scandinavia this usually involves placing the child either at a public preschool/kindergarten which is more common or a private daycare which is less common, when the child is between 7 months – 1.5 years old, with most being somewhere there in between. (In other countries such as the U.S, it is not uncommon to have to leave your child in a daycare 6 weeks after giving birth, so obviously in Scandinavia we have the total ‘Rolls Royce luxury version’ when it comes to childcare. BUT at the same time, it is not optimal, not by a long shot.)

The child most often has to be left in care at time where it is very vulnerable in its development. It has just started discovering its own independence and is slowly but surely started venturing away from its safe base; its home and its parents. In most cases, when the parents have to go back to work, the child is transferred to a totally new environment, and more or less yanked out of their arms, in an extremely rushed process, where their entire life is turned upside down. Unfortunately in many cases, this is required by the preschool staff for them to make their business run effectively. They cannot spend weeks or months integrating a new little one, which is actually what would have been required for many children to integrate in the new environment in a supportive way.

So the child is systematically traumatized – and yes, this is by design.

We have created a system that requires a docile, complacent working force (because it is essentially unnatural and illogical that we have to PAY to live) and so we trade the value of our lives, for mediocre entertainment and unhealthy consumption, and we call that ’life’. The child in many cases learns that it is abandoned by its mother, as it screams and cries for her not to go, and she goes anyways, which pushes it into the arms of the system, and into an inner state of silent misery, suppression and apathy. Please do not be fooled into thinking the preschools and daycare centers exist for the children’s sake because they need to go to such a place to learn what they need to learn in life. I’ve worked in more than 30 preschools, and the stories I could share would make you weep. Nothing in this system is created to support life to grow or flourish. That is why everything is slowly but surely devolving.

This is not to say that ALL children are traumatized by going to daycare or preschool. Many, especially older children, enjoy being around other kids. But for the youngest it can be a very brutal transition. And for many older kids, it is not ideal either.

So – how do we solve it?

This is what I am busy looking at and seeing if I can come up with a prototype for a model that could be implemented at least in a Scandinavian context that would secure mother’s financial situations while still allow them to be around and take care of their children. I simply cannot sit still and keep my mouth shut, when I every day see and hear these mother’s stories about how their hearts are breaking because they have to leave a child into the hands of strangers, strangers who in most cases, have little resources to actually care for that child in an appropriate manner, and therefore are forced to brutally detach the child from its mother. It is simply unacceptable.

The solutions I have found thus far, involve creating either a private daycare or a family cooperative where several mothers (or fathers) can join forces and either care for each others children or hire someone like me to do it. Luckily there are more and more of these places being created around the world (I visited one such amazing place recently in Kalmar which you can see on my Instagram), and more and more mothers and fathers whose inner voice of common sense has become so strong that it can no longer be suppressed or pushed down, and so they work tirelessly to come up with solutions that ensure that their children are given the most optimal care, either by them, or by someone they trust. I for example read about a mother who had come up with a solution where she would go to work at 4 am and then go to sleep with her child at 6 pm. The husband was quite satisfied as it meant he got a quiet evening at home after coming home from work.

I mean, whatever works! And yes, it has to work for the whole family, because a martyred and exhausted mother or father is not an optimal choice either. And there are obviously parents (especially single mothers) who have no choice but to leave their child at some daycare or preschool, or who for various reasons cannot personally care for their child in the home. It is for them, and for all the parents who write and ask for support, and for the children, and for Lora and for our family that I am working to come up with a solution. I don’t know what it is yet, but I know I have to find it, that it must be possible to solve this. Because I simply cannot accept this to continue.

If you do have no choice but to leave your child, please don’t feel guilty or think you are a horrible parent. As I mentioned, this is created by design. There ways to screen daycare or preschool facilities as well so you don’t have to settle for the first one that you get into, and if you find that it is not ok at a later stage, please don’t hesitate to move your child if needed. Some places are really not a place for kids to be. And if you are a parent who simply are not comfortable being at home with your child (which is also not optimal in many ways as I can attest to), or you feel incompetent or stressed because you feel like you’re not a good enough parent to your child, or simply feel it is boring to be around them, please do also not feel guilty. It IS possible to create communities where we can work together and learn together – you are not alone.

And if you do see that leaving your child at a daycare facility is not what is best for your child or for you, please do consider finding a solution to making it happen, even if your family or friends thinks you’re fussy or oversensitive. Dare to stand up for your child, even though everyone around you thinks you’re crazy. You do not have to accept the current way the system works or take if for granted, unless you absolutely have no choice. For many of us, there ARE alternatives, there are other options. There are groups on Facebook for stay at home parents that you can seek advice in and find communities in your local area.  And I am here, even though I may be in a different country and at the other end of an electrical current and data stream. I am here.

If you agree with me and have ideas or suggestions, please do leave a comment. If you have questions you’d like to ask me or get my perspective on, also please do not hesitate to contact me. You can email me at annabrixthomsen@gmail.com or contact me via messenger on Facebook.

A MOTHER’S LIBERATION HANDBOOK

A MOTHER’S LIBERATION HANDBOOK

Someone asked me yesterday what it is like to be on maternity leave. I said: “It is a huge paradox.” It is the biggest privilege and the biggest prison in the world. On one hand, I know how fortunate I am to live in a country that offers perhaps the best maternity (and paternity!) leave in the world. In comparison, there are women in other countries who has to go back to work straight after giving birth, handing their children off to distant relatives or strangers to survive. I also live in a country where the tradition is to simply give the woman a bag of money and otherwise leave her to her own vices, totally isolated and cut off from the rest of the world. All over Scandinavia, you see mothers with newborns desperately walk around shopping centers to pass the time; shopping to at least feel some connection with the rest of the world. Or they sit at coffee shops doing their best to look totally perfect and blissfully happy with their designer clothes and designer kids, before going home to an empty apartment to stare into the wall or TV screen until their husbands and boyfriends comes come. And yes, this is totally a first world problem, but it is a problem none the less, because a mother with bird cage syndrome is not necessarily what’s best for a child. And yes, we can organize ourselves into little groups of mothers gathering with their children, and I’ve tried that, and many others have tried that and it is really not that much fun. Children can’t really play together until they’re at least two, so instead they’ll hit each other and roll on each other and steal each others toys. And I’ve gone to open playgroups, only resulting in my child shutting down because there was way too noisy. All in all, I’ve not found any of the traditional offers to pass the time as a new mother appealing.

So – here’s what I am doing instead, and let’s call this the beginning of “A MOTHER’S LIBERATION HANDBOOK”. (I’d like to clarify that when I say liberation, I do not mean liberation from my child, but from the unnatural situation I am placed in being isolated and home alone).

A MOTHER’S LIBERATION HANDBOOK

1. Whenever I find myself ‘bored’ during the day at home with my child, or I feel like being with a baby is ‘boring’, I deliberately ‘lower’ myself to her level. (low in this context means ‘humbling/grounding’) I do simple things with her that she enjoys.

These are our go-to things to do:

a) lay in bed and play and goof with each other, look into each others eyes, her moving and contorting her little body preparing to learn how to crawl, sit and eventually walk and stand. I stick my tongue out and do different movements and sounds with my mouth, because imitating these movements and sounds will help her develop the oral strength that is necessary for her to eventually speak.

b) Or we go outside and in the garden (can do it in your neighborhood if you live in an apartment) and slowly, slowly walk around and observe all the details we see. I make sure to observe where Lora’s eyes wonder to, and follow her lead in what interests her the most. Then we stop at trees and touch the bark, or I pick a basil leave and squish it between my fingers and let her smell and taste it.

c) We listen to music and dance. Nothing better to lighten a heavy mood. 🙂

2. I’m starting to plan more ahead to meet and see people that live rather far away, because I have found that it is important for me to be more with people whom I can communicate with on a deeper level and whom, at least to some degree share the principles I am committed to live, especially when it comes to how children are seen and treated.  I’ve realized that if I want to meet and be around people who share similar values, I have to be willing to travel for it, and I am.

3. I have also realized that because maternity leave is a great privilege, I can actually use it (and the time it gifts me) to create even more networks and explore different places, situations and people. So I am actually planning on trying out different sports and hobbies, either where I can bring Lora with me, or eventually that my husband can be with her for a few hours when she’s not as dependent on my milk.

4. I plan on starting to study next spring when Lora is about a year old. I already have a bachelor and a master’s degree but it is invigorating to learn new things and I may want to expand my career into new areas, so what is better than taking up distance studying? (Which will also alleviate our economic situation a bit).

5. In the weekends or when my husband is home, we take roadtrips and find new places to take hikes where we take turn to carry Lora in a carrier or woven baby wrap. This is perhaps my favorite thing to do. As we walk, we talk about our lives and plans for the future.

6. I’m looking into starting a project or getting a job where I can include Lora, but this is very much only at a theoretical level. Another far in the future plan, would be to create a community setup living space, but by then Lora will also be much older. I can say as much that I will not accept that I cannot be mothering at a close and intimate level AND at the same time remain active in society and in my local community. It is simply unacceptable. So I will continue to work to find a solution.

7. I read blogs by other parents, and people in general who can inspire and support me to grow and expand as a mother. I watch videos and have discussions with people online, and I must say that having a supportive online community to share and communicate with is a must when you spend so much time alone – at least if you like I do, have a need to be social on a deeper level. Of course I also produce material myself (like this piece).

If you too are a new mother or a mother (or father) who’s staying at home who can relate to this, do share your tips or hacks of how you’re finding a way to remain active while at the same time committing to caring for your child in the best possible way; with your own two hands. I for one can see how incredibly easy it is to fall into the martyrdom of motherhood (another motherhood label/construct to liberate myself from) where one believes that one must sacrifice everything for one’s child. The opposite of course is the idea that one can have children and continue the exact same life as before, often at the expense of children who are often left in the care of rather random individuals. I am determined to find a balance you hear! And if you would like to join me, or join forces, don’t hesitate to contact me.

[Photo by Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash]

 

Why I Will Not Create an EMOTIONAL Bond with my Child – and What I’m Doing Instead. 128

Why I Will Not Create an EMOTIONAL Bond with my Child – and What I’m Doing Instead. 128

From the moment my daughter was born, I knew that I would be walking a process of letting her go. I knew that she is, as the poet Kahlil Gibran says, not my own. She is the daughter of life itself, exactly as I am. I knew that I would have to let go of my own wants, needs and desires in relation to her, so that she can grow up to be the person she needs to be, that she has potential to be, and because I will not accept myself to hold her back or limit her to serve my own self-interest, I’ve been watching out for seeing when I have stepped in to a pattern of ownership or fear towards her.

So, the other day, I had a profound realization about motherhood and my role as a mother. I realized that my ‘role’ or responsibility as a mother is not to create an emotional relationship with my child, or to serve an emotional role in her life. I started realizing this because I could see that I was starting to create such a dynamic within myself, projected towards her, where I, more or less subconsciously wanted her to be emotionally depended on me, to need my love, and where I basically wanted to create an emotional bond between us that would forever tie her to me.

I realized this by asking myself the question in a quantum moment: “What did I need from MY mother? Did I need her to connect with me emotionally, to ensure I wouldn’t feel lonely? To ensure I would feel loved?” And to my surprise I realized that, no, I did not.

When I looked back at my relationship with my mother I realized that, I most of all needed her to support me on a practical level, and to stand as an example of what it means to live effectively in this world and how to form relationships and communicate with others.

When I looked at who I am as a person am in relation to my mother, I realized that I am a sovereign being, meaning that I have my own life, independent from her. If I feel lonely, I sort it out on my own. Even when I felt lonely as a child, she was never able to sort it out for me, or take the emotion from my body and transcend it for me. I realized that I don’t need my mother as an emotional support or ‘anchor’ in my life in any way what so ever, because I am for all intents and purposes alone in this life, as are we all. I need to be that for myself. And so does my daughter.

Looking back, I could see that my mother also did not (at least to a certain degree) create the type of emotional bond to me that many parents do,  simply because she’s not that type of person (for better and for worse). Instead, she always had a great deal of respect for my sovereignty and unique potential, and she has encouraged me become independent and stand on my own two feet (sometimes a little too fast and too soon). As I see it, this is one of the primary reasons why I am not particularly nostalgic or attached to things or people or places or even ideas – which I see as a strength I have. Because it means that I am willing and able to move and change and let go if I need to. It also means that I am able to realize things like these that can be difficult to swallow. Edited to add: It also means that it is important to me to show my daughter physical affection and to respect her boundaries, something that my mother did not do with me.

As I kept diving deeper into this realization, I could see that my daughter is already as a small baby, much more independent and much less in need of me than I’ve given her credit for, exactly because I had this hidden desire for her to be emotionally dependent on me. So I wanted her to be more weak than she is, so that she would keep needing me. Isn’t it incredible? I mean that’s how problematic symbiotic mother/child relationships are developed. And if I you don’t catch it and stop yourself, you’re bound to create that ‘bond’ from what is essentially your own self-interest, of wanting the child to fulfill something in you (through you being something for them) that is really something you are yearning to give to yourself.

But because I have worked on developing myself for a very long time, and because I have walked a process to become self-honest also for a long time, I have enabled myself to ‘catch’ or ‘unveil’ myself in moments of self-dishonesty and self-deception. There are many, many moments still where I don’t (that’s why/how it is a life long process), but this exactly the process of deschooling that is talked about in unschooling contexts, and deprogramming as it is called in the Desteni group.

It is about facing and seeing the parts of ourselves that are the very most secret and shameful and hidden away. That we have created gigantic emotional STOP signs towards in our minds and bodies so that if we were ever to even begin confronting ourselves with the fact that this exists within us, we’d ensure that we DON’T GO THERE – and risk actually being honest with ourselves and our own motives.

See, even though I have realized that my daughter does not need me on an emotional level or for me to bond with her emotionally, it doesn’t mean I am not going to walk a process of creating an intimate and mutually trusting relationship with her. It doesn’t mean I won’t kiss or hug her as much as she’ll let me, or that I won’t rock her and sing her lullabies when she’s sick or tired or support her to stabilize if she’s scared. I already tell her I love her a hundred times a day. But a lot of those things (especially the hugs and kisses) are things that I do for me. I tell her I love her because I enjoy telling her I love her – not because she needs me to feel anything towards her. If I were to die when she was 5 or 10 or 20, she would still live on and create her own life.

The love she needs from me is practical, direct, tangible. The love she needs from me is a DOING, not a FEELING. And more than anything, she actually needs me to love myself, because that is the example I will set for her that she will mirror and to a certain (and big) degree will mold herself after.

So in realizing all of this, I have felt a sense of mourning and sorrow, and within that a reluctance to letting this emotional bond go, because it felt like I was losing her, that she was no longer MINE (which she of course never was). She came through me, but she is not mine. But then I realized that this entire point, this whole time, has been about ME being disconnected from MYSELF, about ME creating a deep and rich relationship with MYSELF, about ME connecting with MYSELF – that is was never about my daughter, or my relationship with her or me as a mother.

So after I had this realization, I have noticed that I have been able to be much more relaxed around my daughter, I have been less scared of her having bad experiences and I have been more myself around her. It reminds me of a decision I made in my twenties when it was clear to me that my mother was never going to be the kind of mother I had wanted her to be as a child. I realized that if I was going to be able to have a relationship with her, I had to accept her for who she was, and accept that she was first and foremost a woman, an individual, and that being my mother was only a part of the entirety of who she was. Back then I also felt a sorrow in letting go of my desire for a particular kind of mother, but with letting that desire go, I also opened myself up to the real human being that my mother is, and I started to see and appreciate HER for who she was. This, I realize, is what I am busy doing with my daughter as well. I am busy getting to know her, and see her for who she is.

And as such, I have peeled off another of those infamous onion layers of deception and unauthenticity from myself, as a mother and as a human being, and I can breathe a little bit more easily as I have released space within me, space that is now occupied by me, my body, my being, and not by an idea about who I am supposed to be in relation to my daughter, that doesn’t only imprison her, to now be defined as my daughter, but that also keeps me trapped in always searching for that deep connection with someone else, all the while, what (or whom) I was looking for, was here all along, with/within ME.

The Name I Gave My Daughter and What It Means to Me. 127

The Name I Gave My Daughter and What It Means to Me. 127

When my partner and I set off to pick a name for the baby we had on the way, we did as most couples do, and started gathering a list of potential names. I knew that I wanted a name that was strong and grounded and not too cute or girly as I find some names can be where they are well suited for a small baby but perhaps not for an adult. I also wanted an international name that people could pronounce and understand in many different languages, as our family is multi-lingual (I speak and write three languages on a daily basis; Danish, Swedish and English). When we started going through potential names, it was obvious that someone always had some association with virtually every name we came up with. I really liked the name Vivian for example, but many of the people I talked to about it immediately associated it with Julia Robberts´ character as a prostitute in the movie Pretty Woman, and so therefore experienced an aversion towards it. Others reacted to personal associations with names, like how a certain name could be perceived as a ‘bitch name’  because someone knew a person with that name in their childhood who was a bitch.

In fact, there wasn’t a single name that everybody liked (Obviously. Why would there be?). There were barely any names that my partner and I both liked. When we finally came up with a couple of names that we both really liked, someone in our close environment didn’t like it, and I realized that because they didn’t like it, I immediately didn’t like it as much. This experience (which happened a couple of times) caused an entire avalanche of reactions within me, and opened the point of how I’ve been extremely dependent on other people’s opinions and approval of me.

Rather than blaming them for it and saying that they ruined my baby name, I realized that I wanted their approval, I wanted them to like my baby name and I placed (my own) value in them liking the name. Had they liked the name, I would’ve most likely liked the name even more and I would’ve been really satisfied with it.

Thus, if I stood clear and stable within myself in trusting and standing by the name I had picked, I wouldn’t have allowed myself to be influenced by someone not liking it, because it doesn’t really have anything to do with me or with my child whether they like her name or nor. In fact, I realized that I only told them about the name to see how they would react, to get their approval. On a deeper level I could see that when I allow myself to be influenced by something someone says, then I am not actually being influenced BY THEM or their words, but by my own interpretation thereof. What I am in fact being influenced by, is my own mind. It is my mind that places value on others opinions of me, who believe that it does truly affect me what they think.

The real issue is not about my relationship with others, but about my relationship with myself, my body, my being and my mind, that I allow myself to be inferior to, through accepting certain limitations, beliefs and ideas about myself and about my relationships with others.

So I’ve been working with stopping these reactions, with detaching myself from this dependency and fear in relation to others and to bring focus and attention back to myself. I then decided that I wouldn’t share any more name suggestions with anyone until my partner and I had decided for ourselves, because really, it isn’t a democracy where everyone gets to cast a vote on what we should name our baby. It is in fact something that my partner and I decide on our own.

Ideally I would have preferred for my child to pick her own name, because she is after all the one who has to live with it, but since she can’t do that, I started playing around with talking to my baby inside the belly and try to get a ‘feel’ for what her name was or could be or what she’d prefer to be called.

As my partner and I kept discussing names, I kept having the same letters come up that I seemed to prefer over others, especially the letter L. As I played with asking the baby in my belly what it wanted to be called, I got a very strong ‘sense’ that it was a name that ended with the letter A. I can’t say for a fact that I did indeed communicate with my daughter in the womb, but it was the closest I got to actually be able to ask her, and not simply pick a name that I liked but that may not suit her, or to pick a name that everyone else could agree on, just to not risk displeasing anyone.

Slowly but surely the letters started gathering into a name. Initially I thought it was Lola. I also though of Loa. Other names that started with L and ended in A was Livia, and Liva. But what kept coming up within me – very clearly – was the name Lora.

It wasn’t a name I particularly liked. In fact, I had absolutely no reference or association to it whatsoever. It was ‘blank’ in a way. I kept pushing it aside because it wasn’t something I could relate to at all.

One day I talked to a friend on the phone and she asked me if I had asked the baby what it wanted to be named. Hesitatingly I replied that I wasn’t sure. My friend said: “Of course you know what the name is, just trust yourself!” After the conversation I had a look within me and admitted to myself that I had indeed ‘seen’ or ‘felt’ the name Lora, but I had rejected it because I didn’t trust myself and because I didn’t have any associations to the name that I could attach myself to. I also didn’t know whether it was something I came up with inside my brain somehow or it was her signaling to me telepathically.

I actually thought it was something I came up with (or rather, that she came up with) until I Googled it and found out that it isn’t that uncommon at all. I shared the name with my partner and he also didn’t have any associations to it. What I really like about this name is exactly the fact that I don’t have associations, let alone any preferences for or against it. So it isn’t a name I have picked (unless it comes from some deep subconscious point in my mind) because of my likes and dislikes and my ideas about how I want my child to be. Because it is blank, it is pure, it is clean and therefore it can be her 100 %.

Now, sharing the name we had decided on after she was born, opened up a whole new can of worms as people reacted much like we did initially; with a blank stare. When we told them that her name was Lora, they’d go “huh, uhm, Lora, with an O?” “Oh you mean Laura” – “No, its Lora.” “Oh ok, that’s unusual”. People get this dead/confused look in their eyes like they can’t compute and they don’t know what to say.  So it is clearly a name that most people don’t have any associations to, at least not in our part of the world where it is not at all common. In all of Sweden there are only 65 people called Lora.

The same person that initially reacted negatively to some of our name choices that I spoke of earlier also very blatantly blurted out that we had made a terrible mistake and that this was a bad name and we should think about what we were doing to our child. (Lora happens to rhyme with the word for ‘whore’ in Swedish.)

Every time we were to share with a new person our choice of name, I was confronted with my fear of not pleasing others, of them not finding me worthy or liking me, and because I had already made a decision to stand by myself and the name I had decided on, it has been quite a cool experience for me – to make a decision based on self-trust without any external influence, that others may even react strongly to – and to keep standing, and stand by myself. It has in fact supported me greatly to start expanding in other areas, where I see that my effectiveness is contingent upon me trusting myself and building confidence in myself and to not worry about what others might think. It has even made me realize that there are areas where I trust myself very much because I know who I am and I have done my research and cross-referenced the points I see.

Now, I love the name Lora. It is growing on me. Because it is the name of my daughter. As she grows up and develops she made decide to change her name or take on a different name, and that too is perfectly ok with me – because she is who she is, and it is not something I or anyone else can decide for her. Who she will become, will be her own creation, and I will do everything in my power to support her on her journey, as I am sure, she will support me – as she already is.

Why Adults Find it Boring To Play with Children (And what you can do about it). 126

Why Adults Find it Boring To Play with Children (And what you can do about it). 126

Why do adults often find it boring to play with children, sometimes to the point of feeling physically uncomfortable? Is there a way for us as adults to enjoy playing with children when we feel like it is the last thing we’d want to do?

This is something that I’ve been exploring over many years as I was working as a teacher, and couldn’t understand why it crippled me in my ability to enjoy my day and stifled my relationship with the children I worked with, because I became irritated and annoyed with them, completely without reason. What I found is that we as adults find it boring to play with children because:

A) We’re completely immersed in our ‘adult mind’ which prompts us to focus on being efficient and getting things done, and most of us have long since left behind our ‘child presence’ of being able to truly BE HERE and enjoy the moment and be immersed in what we’re doing. So we simply don’t see the value of play. We’re disconnected from our own bodies, which is one of the reasons why we may feel physically uncomfortable when sitting down to play with a child. Because we are confronted with ourselves on a level we’re not used to. So we see it as a waste of time for us to engage in, even if we see the benefit of spending ‘quality time’ with our child.

B) When adults play with children, we tend to let them decide everything while we passively tag along – exactly because we can’t or won’t fully engage and participate on equal terms. So we ‘halfass’ it to put in as little effort as possible, while our minds are often preoccupied elsewhere with ‘more important things’.

(Children pick up on this by the way, which is what often make them go all up in our face, asking the same questions over and over. They’re trying to get us to engage and be present.)

When we play only on the child’s terms and let the child make all the decisions, it is really boring to play. A child would never let another child make all the decisions in play. It simply wouldn’t be fun.

So – the way to engage with a child in play that can be mutually enjoying for the adult may include:

A) Play something that YOU TOO ENJOY. If you don’t like role play then don’t do it (or maybe challenge yourself first and see what it’s like). If you enjoy building and construction, why not pull out the legos? If you like creating homemade birthday cards, then make that into a mutual moment of play if you find that your child too enjoys playing with paper. If you can’t come up with anything, then that’s fine too. You can cook or bake together or clean out the garage in a fun and engaging way. You can even have a play date every week where you try out different things to find something that you both enjoy. What matters is that you participate on equal terms with your child so that the activity is fun for the both of you. And don’t halfass it.

B) Ground yourself in the present moment, in the sandbox or on the floor with the train set or with the dollhouse – and physically focus on becoming present here and letting go of the constant undercurrent of stress and pressure and time. Know that it takes practice to come back (and for some of us, for the first time) to a state of playfulness. As adults, we’ve spend 20 + years in a state of stress and hurry and getting things done, so don’t worry if you don’t immediately enjoy sitting down and hanging out with your kid. Can set a timer to 20 or 30 minutes to begin with if that helps.

This is actually a really cool ‘zen exercise’ that may be as valuable as meditation is to many people, as it brings you back HERE – to reality, to your body, to your child. And so, as you accept and embrace the current moment, you may start reconnecting with yourself on a whole other level and start seeing the value of the simplicity of play – and of spending time with your child in this way. Who knows what doors it may open up?

Why We Can’t Teach Children Values that aren’t Our Own. 125

Why We Can’t Teach Children Values that aren’t Our Own. 125

You very often hear adults speaking about how important it is to teach children values like ‘kindness’, ‘respect’, ‘empathy’ or ‘honesty’. In schools all over the world you will see endless rows of colorful posters instructing children: “In our school everyone is equal!” “treat each other with kindness!” Teachers will give entire lessons to prevent bullying by teaching ‘inclusion’ and ‘empathy’ towards others. Parents will perpetuate the same phrases over and over to teach their child manors and values: “be nice to your sister!” “Play gently with the dog.” “In this house we share!” It is clear that parents and teachers alike pay a great deal of attention to teaching these kinds of values.

We think we say these things to teach children the ways and values of the world. But we really say these things because we assume that children are not born with a moral compass. We believe that it is something WE have to teach them. This gets validated when we see them yank the dog’s tail so hard that it yelps in pain, or when they exclude another child from a game for no apparent reason.

Although most of us would not admit it, on a subconscious level, we see children as ‘savages’ who must be civilized and trained to become decent human beings who can function in society.

Now, considering the current state of the world and the general demeanor of adult human beings, and how we treat the world, I would say that our parents mission to raise us ‘right’ has failed and failed hard. The same can be said for their parents and their parents’ parents, and so the list goes on. It is equally true for our children, but how can that be so? I mean, we’re busy teaching them all these values, yet the odds are that they will grow up to become cheats and megalomaniacs and liars and narcissistic assholes like the rest of us. Why is that?

The truth is that we cannot teach children values like ‘equality’, ‘playing fair with others’ or ’empathy’ because most of us do not even know what it means to live these values ourselves. Sure, we know what it means on a superficial level, but if we were honest with ourselves, can we say that we truly live equality? Do we play fair with others? And what does it even mean?

In traditional Freudian psychology the human mind consists of three levels, the “Id”, the “ego” and the “superego”. The Id is the instinctual, impulsive and childish part of us, the part of us that throws tantrums and screams when we don’t get what we want. It is the voice of pleasure and selfish desire. It is what our children represent. The superego is the parent, the voice of reason, the one who is able to suppress impulses and do what is right. It is the values and morals taught by society. The “ego”, the middle aspect, is the balanced part of us where we are at an even key balancing our impulses and our common sense, or if you will: where we are in a state of constant conflict and battle between the two more extreme sides of us.

As teachers, and as parents in particular, we access a role of representing the superego to our children. We see ourselves as representatives and gatekeepers of a moral compass that we believe we must to pass onto our children, and we completely disregard the fact that we haven’t developed this moral compass in ourselves. We completely deny the fact that what we are doing is not only deceiving ourselves, but also our children. We do so by pretending that we’ve got it all figured out, that we are examples that they can lean on and model themselves according to. We deny and suppress the parts of us that aren’t socially acceptable, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t there, it doesn’t mean that we don’t act them out and it doesn’t mean that our children do not see and pick up on the conflicted behavior that we portray. We say one thing and then do the complete opposite. And then we wonder why our children do as we do, and not as we say.

Let’s look at an example: many parents struggle with, and worry over their children spending too much time on tablets, smartphones or computers playing games or wasting time on social media. We give them ‘screen time’ as rewards for good behavior or doing chores. We control them, limit them, moralize their behavior on these devices. And yet, where do most of us prefer spending our time? Often on the exact same devices we so demonize when in the hands of our young ones.

We constantly tell our children to play nice with their siblings or friends, but how do we not treat our spouses, the people who are supposed to be our best friends and allies in the world? Do we not belittle, exclude, ignore, fight, demean and spite them? Maybe most don’t even do it out loud, but there isn’t a single one of us who doesn’t, at the very least judge and condemn others in the secrecy in our own minds, and do so with pleasure.

The actual REAL values we are teaching our children (values being that which we prioritize and give importance to), are values such as suppressing the parts of ourselves that we don’t like, parts that we are a shamed of, instead of facing them and dealing with them in a responsible way. We are teaching them that what matters most is how others see us, not to have integrity within and as ourselves. We are teaching them that lying gets you out of trouble and that you can have forbidden pleasures and desires, as long as you keep them secret and suppressed.

So when we look at why our world is in the state it is in, when we look at each other in dismay at how our children treat each other, all we have to do is take a good hard look at one another and ourselves, and we’ll know why that is so. It all starts with us.

So often do we take values for granted as part of our society and of who we are, that they become nothing but empty words that we say because they make us look good (at least in the eyes of our own mind). But when have we ever actually asked ourselves whether we are in fact living the words we are trying to teach our children? When have we ever questioned how their behavior can be mirrored through us, not as the people we wish we were, but the people we are in fact?

If we truly want our children to become compassionate, giving, emphatic human beings with integrity and respect for others, we need to first develop these values in ourselves, not on a superficial level, but on a real, verifiable, practical level. To do that, we need to first understand what it means to be compassionate, to be emphatic, to be respectful; we need to examine our relationship with and understanding of these values and the words that represent them.

This is something that I would for one like to continue to work with, and together with the teachers who work with children and the parents who raise them, establish real, practical values that we can live and stand as real examples of to our children. After all, our future depends on it.

Watch this space to learn more or contact me if you are interested in getting started with this process.

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The Good News and the Bad News of Why Learning Cannot be Forced. 109.

The Miseducation of Your Humanity. 110

Stifling THAT child, Stifling the Whole World. 113

Giving Your Child the Best Start in Life when the Odds are stacked Against You. 124

Giving Your Child the Best Start in Life when the Odds are stacked Against You. 124

Being pregnant with your first child, you’d think that it would be a joyous time to be thinking about baby names while preparing to create the most optimal environment for the little one.

In an ideal world, new parents would be able to sit down and make the necessary changes to best provide a supportive and healthy environment for their child. They would be able to move, change their jobs or quit them, and they would be able to choose the type of education that they see is best suited for their child.

When my husband and I started preparing for the arrival of the new baby, we quickly realized that we couldn’t simply start planning for the life we see would be best to provide for our child.

In our case, we would like to live somewhere close to nature where our child is able to explore and enjoy nature and breathe in fresh and unpolluted air. We would like to spend as much time with our child as possible. We would also like to each be able to continue to have an active life, and stand as examples to our child through living in a way that is best for us as adults, pursuing a meaningful and purposeful driven life where making a difference in the world is of priority.

We would like to not be forced to place our child into childcare or a formal school. We would like to at least have a choice in the type of education our child is given. In the country we live in, we don’t.

We would like our child to have other people around them too, both children and adults of different ages. We would like our child to be exposed to all kinds of cultures, from books to people from other countries. We would like to live in a community where adults support each other in taking care of the children and the living environment. We would like to live rich and fulfilling lives with good nutritious food that isn’t laced with hidden toxins, regular exercise, travel and other life-enhancing experiences.

To me, these would be the basic standards of life that each child should at the very least be provided with from the moment of birth, to actually be able to make the most of themselves as adults.

When we look at our options, it is clear that we have to choose between the least bad options available to us, and make the best of that. We might for example not be able to be home with our child as long as possible. Instead we are forced to count every penny to see how far we can stretch the money or come up with a million dollar business idea over night.

Here I would also like to stress the fact that we live in one of the countries in the world that has the best conditions when it comes to things like childcare and maternity leave. We both have higher academic degrees and with my husband having studied law, we have the potential to make a considerable income in the future. I myself have worked in the education field for 15 years, and education and children’s rights are my life’s passion.

So ironically, you might say that we were in the perfect situation to become parents.

So why is it that, even for us who are tremendously privileged compared to most people in this world, we cannot even give our child the very essential upbringing we see would be best for our child to be prepared as best as possible to become an adult in this world? And where does that leave everyone else?

We hear all these fancy blanket statements like “The children are the future!” but it is as though we do not know what this in fact means on a practical level, or we wouldn’t be eroding their chances of the best life possible already from the moment they are conceived.

It is the same with statements like “All people have equal opportunity from birth”. How can that possibly be true, when my child is going to be born with disadvantages and poor odds from the get go, not even mentioning the people whose children are literally born without ANY opportunities to make a supportive life for themselves?

The fact that providing children with the utmost care and the best possible environment to grow up in, isn’t the highest priority in our society, is an unfortunate tell tale sign of where we are at in our evolution as humanity. The fact is that we are devolving rather than evolving at this point.

If children truly are the future, then we cannot care very much about our future since we are constantly making budget-cuts in virtually all areas involving children, childcare and parent support. We don’t even care enough to make the effort to protect the planet from further harm by human hands.

Another thing is that parents are expected to, without any training in how to actually be a parent, raise sensible, caring and productive members of society. Most parents try their best to give their children the best possible upbringing they can, in the best possible environment, with the best possible education, but society is indirectly – and sometimes even directly – disrupting these efforts through its commitment to short sighted wins and profit optimization for the few. It is for all intents and purposes not created to support its members to live and thrive and contribute in the best ways possible, but to erode and consume life resources, including those of human beings, at such a rapid pace that we cannot possibly keep up AND keep a decent living standard.

It would seem as though there are always more important things for us to do, than actually living, that actually caring for life. As the saying goes: as you give so shall you receive, and unfortunately we have created a world where we take a lot and expect everything in return, while we give very little. The same is true for how we raise our children.

One thing is certain: my husband and I are not going to let the lack of odds prevent us from giving our child the best possible start. We are committed to make it work, to find every gap and solution available and to learn and grow together with other parents doing the same. We do this so that our child will at least have a foundation from which they can go into life as whole human beings, human beings who have the potential to change the world, because someone was willing to change themselves and the world for them. So many parents do not have the opportunity to do that, so we do it for them too.  All it takes is one family at a time, changing the world one child at a time.

A New Journey has Begun. 123

A New Journey has Begun. 123

For the past couple of months I have taken a rather long hiatus from blogging. The reason is that I have been suffering from severe morning sickness, leaving me virtually immobile, stranded watching YouTube videos and reading Norwegian fantasy novels as well as The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff on my couch, barely being able to eat, let alone write.

Having worked in education for so many years and spending the past 5 years loudly voicing my perspectives on the radical changes that I see needs to happen in how we see and conduct education, I find myself in the humbling position of becoming a parent for the first time.

I’ve always felt/experienced that I was ‘born to be a mother’ and have always felt very comfortable towards the idea of having children, along with enjoying spending time with children. When I am at dinner parties I always tend to levitate towards hanging out with the children or the animals rather than the adults, because children and animals are more genuine and therefore more interesting to be around. And then of course I decided to become a professional child-caretaker within which I also created an idea of being an ‘expert’ or ‘child whisperer’ of sorts. It is definitely an occupational hazard I have seen in parents that come before me. I remember in teacher conferences we had with parents, the most dreaded parents were always the ones who were teachers themselves, because they thought they knew everything.
Now when I am pregnant, I have been shocked at my own experiences, because they have indeed mostly been negative, filled with fear and doubts and anxiety towards being good enough. On the contrary, I’ve always ‘known’ that being pregnant and having the child would be natural for me, like I would be ‘the best’ at it, and reality is showing me something very different, which is actually cool because it is humbling, and I am much more grounded towards it than I think I would have been, if I had had an harmonious and angelic pregnancy, and I am probably also better equipped for when the child comes, because I’ve had to let go of my idealized ideas of myself and stop being delusional about it.
Considering the change in my circumstances, it is obvious my blog will take on a slightly different direction, given the fact that I will now include a personal perspective on parenting. I am however still as committed as ever to the process of deconstructing the education system from within (also from within the family system) and contributing to creating radical changes in how we see and approach both education, as well as how we see and approach children in general.

Living in a country where unschooling is illegal, I will continue to share my perspectives on the failure of the Swedish school system (which is no different than any other school system in the world. The only difference is that in Sweden, you have no choice to opt out). I will also be sharing the concrete and specific considerations my husband and I have towards how we will approach education on a practical level for our child.

I will share perspectives regarding general childcare and upbringing, probably more so than I have in the past, as this has been and continues to be an area that I am passionate about, and that I am obviously more directly involved with now.

Living in a country that has made modern western science into an orthodox religion, I have found myself feeling very alone when it comes to the principles that I consider to be both natural and commonsensical to raise my child according to, because they are considered to be not only ‘alternative’, but in fact even ‘weird’, ‘strange’ or ‘dangerous’. I am here speaking about something as natural to me as co-sleeping with one’s child, wearing one’s child in a sling and breastfeeding for a longer period of time than what is normally prescribed in this society. I will be sharing my experiences and insights as I start exploring these areas of parenting and child-relating on a more direct and intimate level, and I will share the processes I walk through to deschool myself from fears and beliefs and judgments that prevent me from doing what is best for myself and my child. I will continue to focus on sharing honest – and more importantly: self-honest perspectives on parenting, education and children.

I hope you will join me on this journey to life, not only as teachers, but as parents and adults in general, who wish to give our children a different world to grow up in than then one we were brought into – and who understands the imperative of changing ourselves to make this happen.

Children: The Debt Burden of Society or Life’s Unleashed Potential? 122

Children: The Debt Burden of Society or Life’s Unleashed Potential? 122

The other day while driving, I was listening to a radio program discussing young people taking a ‘gap year’ off between high school and college. In the program they interviewed both politicians as well as young people who had taken one or several gap years. The general perspective of the adults in the program, was that while one gap year can be acceptable, taking two or even three years off between high school and college is unacceptable and ill adviced. Their argument was that young people on gap years are a high cost to society, despite the fact that most of the young people interviewed in program were working while on their gap year. They argued that it costs society billions when young people wait with attending college because they after college become more attractive to the labor market and therefore earn a much higher salary than they do if they start working straight out of high school.

The young people who were interviewed, had gone to school for at least 12 years without pause and felt like they needed a break from school, to get into the world and try their hands at different things, also to find out and discover what they wanted to do with their lives on a long term basis.

They wanted experiences from real life, wanted to work and travel and for once in their lives, be able to decide for themselves. Several of them mentioned how they had made the decision to take several gap years very deliberately, because they knew that if they had started at college straight out of high school, they would have been so demotivated that the chances of them dropping out was very high. Some of them had no idea what they wanted to do in life and so felt like they needed the time to try different things and get to know themselves better because they saw that if they simply picked some random direction, there would be a great chance of them dropping out, which would in turn be a disempowering experience. So they had taken their lives into their own hands and had given themselves these gap years to figure things out, so that when they eventually decided to continue studying, they would have had matured and be more clear about what they wanted to do in life. They also accurately mentioned that even when one finishes college, there is no job guarantee and many graduates end up on unemployment benefits.

One of the things that were very interesting about the program was how the adults spoke about the young people relative to ‘society’s demands’. They spoke about the young people as spoiled freeloaders who were causing harm to society as a whole by being egocentric and only thinking about themselves. The fact that the young people felt like they needed to take a couple of years off to find out what they wanted to do in life, was seen as entirely unnecessary and self-placating.

The adults spoke about society in a context of being nothing but a zero-sum game, through which it is a burden on all of our shoulders to keep the wheels of the economy going.

Is that what society is? Something that we grow up in, and cost a lot of money to while growing up and not earning an income, and that we must spend the rest of our lives paying back, as were we nothing but debtors coming into this world?

The solution, from the perspective of the adults in the program was that young people should go straight from high school to university (or another higher education program resulting in increased earning capacity) and as quickly as possible get into the labor force to contribute to society.

The question is whether we truly contribute more to society by rushing through the education system and rushing into the labor force.

Consider how many of us as adults work in jobs we either hate or couldn’t care less about or that we know deep inside is not where our skills and abilities best comes to use. Consider the lack of work ethic that exists in so many industries due to the fact that the only reason we work is to make enough money to survive. Spending our lives slaving away at meaningless jobs is certainly not something we do ‘for society’, at least not in any benevolent or altruistic way. Society has, in this obscure optics, become an absurd ‘overlord’ to whom we owe our lives.

Society is not a fixed and determined external structure. The earth and the ecosystems in which it is maintain its equilibrium is, to some extent. There are certain physical laws that cannot be messed with, because the consequential outflows of doing so could be potentially life threatening.

Society however, is something that we have co-created and are continuously co-creating as a social construct, a social construct with physical infrastructures like medical systems and tax systems and welfare systems, but not as something fixed or unchangeable. We decide, every day, what society is and what society isn’t. At a fundamental level, society is the way we as human beings agree to organize ourselves in our collective and individual lives. The origin of the word comes from the French ’societe’ which means ‘companionship’ or ’friendly association with others’ and originates from the Latin words ’societatem’ which means ’fellowship, association, alliance, union and community’ and ’socius’ which means ‘companion’.

Society is thus a mutually supportive and equally agreed upon union between companions, agreeing to share their lives for mutual benefit, and not a before mentioned external authority to which we owe our lives.

There are so much more important issues in this world than maintaining the economic status quo of societies on a structural level. It is important to maintain a high standard of living yes, but so is actually ensuring that we have a world to live in; in fact it is the most important issue, especially in this day and age.

Kids are our most important assets yes, but not just to keep the wheels of the economy going, but to in fact ensure that we have a future as a species on this planet. By treating them, and each other like numbers in a zero sum game, we are shooting ourselves in the foot.

If we cared for and nurtured the potential existing in the future generations, if we valued each individual’s unique skills and abilities, I have no doubt that we would see an entirely different world in less than 20 years.

Imagine if young people were given the space, time and resources to try different things out. And here I do not mean on a purely theoretical level, which is what we are offered at school, but on a real, practical hands on level. Imagine if kids, already as they enter into their teenage years got to get out into the world and try their hands at all kinds of different jobs, working side by side with adults as mentors, to really find out where their skills and abilities best comes to use.

Imagine if we stopped seeing society as something that we owe our lives to, and instead started seeing it as a social network of mutual support and co-creation, as a place where we are supported to discover and develop our potential, to contribute to creating the best world possible.

We would see the most amazing inventions being created, inventions that could clean our oceans, restore our rain forests and cure diseases. We would see kids growing up taking active and voluntary responsibility for their own lives, and for the world. There is no one who does not want to contribute, who does not want to be of value and purpose to the world. But what we are doing at the moment through our school systems is not harnessing or nurturing anything of real and substantial value.

If taking one or two or three gap years is what is needed for young people to find their way in life, then let us give them that opportunity. But even more than that, let’s stop seeing society as a burden on our shoulders; let’s stop seeing society as a bank we owe our lives to. Let’s stop seeing children as a form of debt and currency, with which we keep the wheels of the economy going. Let’s see children for what they truly are: pure, unleashed life potential, and let’s remember that we too as adults, despite having been subjugated into passivity and apathy for all these years, have this life potential within us. There is nothing stopping us – except us.

The Future of Education: The Potential, Passion and Purpose of the Self-Directed Learner. 121

The Future of Education: The Potential, Passion and Purpose of the Self-Directed Learner. 121

You are a unique being. There is no one in the world that is exactly like you, who has the exact skill-set or way of going about things as you do. You have a certain unique pace at which you learn the best, and you have specific ways that you learn the best, as Howard Gardner described in his book about the multiple intelligences, through which we learned that not all children learn best through books, that some actually need to put their hands on things to best learn or to move to be able to absorb information in the most optimal way.

As a unique being, you also have a unique potential, through which you can contribute something original to the world. These potentials can manifest in as many ways as there are human beings, from people inventing useful gadgets to those whose passion it is to work with and care for the elderly.

If this seems too far fetched for you or a little too esoteric, simply have a look at how each, seemingly generic grain of sand on a beach filled with billions of sand grains, is entirely unique when you see it up close in a microscope (it is actually very beautiful), or how each part of the human body has its own specialized function that it contributes to the whole organism with. Being unique is nothing special; it is in fact very natural.

When we live our unique potential, we give the best of ourselves to the world, because what we do becomes an expression of the best version of ourselves. The doctor who is truly passionate about being a doctor, does not compromise his position by taking shortcuts that compromises the patient, because he honors his work and himself as a doctor. The baker who is passionate about baking, will keep learning and perfecting how to make the best bread possible, and does it without effort, because it comes natural to him or her.

Despite knowing that no two people learn in the same way, we have created a school system where we expect all children to learn the exact same material in the exact same way, at the exact same time, in the exact same pace. In fact, all across the world, lesson plans are being standardized to an extreme degree, where school developers for example come to the conclusion that all second graders must learn the exact same mathematical material (like multiplication) or be taught about the exact same cultural or historical references (like the stone age) during the course of a term.

As most parents, teachers and students are aware, the amount of material you have to go through on your journey from kindergarten through high school is massive, and most of it is rushed through in the span of weeks or months, with little to no time to familiarize oneself with the subjects, to dive deeper into something that interests you, or to slow the process down if you struggle to keep up with the pace that is predetermined by standardized lesson plans.

Working as a teacher, I have spoken to many students who experience not only frustration over the pace set in school, but who also experience so much anxiety and stress, that panic attacks have become a normal part of school life. The students internalize their struggles when they can’t keep up, believing that there is something wrong with them, that they aren’t smart enough or disciplined enough to do what is expected of them.

I remember when a seventh grade student, a girl with aspirations towards becoming a movie director, who was busy writing a novel in the evenings after school, looked at me with panic in her eyes when she once again had to take another test, and to her, this was all school had become: taking tests and proving yourself to the teachers.

I remember asking her what they were learning about in the history lessons (the subject in which they were being tested that day), and she said something like “The Mesopotamian kingdom”, and I said “wow, that sounds interesting!” to which she replied: “no, not really.” And when I asked her why that was, she said: “I don’t really have time to learn anything about it, because the teacher is rushing us through everything, so it is difficult to keep up.”

This example perfectly illustrates how absurd our school systems have become, that proving that you have learned something is more important than actually learning.  This girl was not stupid or lazy. She was ambitious and disciplined with her school work, self-driven even, but she had completely lost all confidence towards learning inside the school system, she didn’t even see it as a place of learning, but as a place of stress and panic and achievement. To her, real learning was something that happened at night when she was alone in front of her computer, learning how to use editing software, how to use camera angles, how to write storyboards and compelling characters, an education that she had created and was mastering completely on her own. Luckily for her, she had parents that supported her in her endeavors, but for many of us, our potential gets squashed and neglected under the burden that is our schooling.

Now – let’s imagine for a moment that education in this world, was set up in a completely different way:

Let’s imagine that education was organized and conducted in such a way where the focus of the educators (or let’s rather call them educational facilitators) was on each individual child’s unique potential. Let’s imagine that there were resources and structures in place that allowed for the adults in a child’s life to walk with the child, in the natural pace of that individual child, to learn and grow and develop and discover their potential.

In a world where education is centered around each individual’s unique potential, the girl I mentioned in the example before, could be supported to go to film school already at the age of thirteen, or she could at least be given a mentor or trainee ship with a film director or screen writer, to try her hand at it and see if it indeed is something she wants to dedicate herself to, not as a permanent life decision, but as that which is her passion at this moment in time, and that may turn out to be where her potential is best expressed.

It is not so that we have to be adults before we can discover or start developing our potential in life. This is yet another misconception about human nature that is fostered through the very school system that systematically squashes, not only our potential, but also our passion for learning in general.

There are plenty of children who, already when they are young, know exactly what they are passionate about and of course there are also plenty who have no idea what they are or could be passionate about, but that is no different for adults. Some of us knows exactly what we want and others have no clue whatsoever. And one of the reasons why we don’t know what we are passionate about, or what to make our purpose in life, is that we haven’t been allowed to try a lot of things in life. Mostly, we have spent the first twenty years of our lives learning how to sit still on a chair while we passively ingest knowledge that we have no idea what to do with outside the gates of school.

In a world where education is based on each individual discovering their own pace of learning, and learning how to initiate self-directed learning in the best way possible, each person is able to focus on developing their unique passion and purpose in life. Someone may have no use for math until they decide to become an architect because they realize how passionate they are about buildings and to them, math becomes a valuable tool that can support them in developing their passion, it has a practical and real value and perhaps for them, learning math at the age of sixteen or twenty is perfect timing because their brain simply wasn’t mature until that point.

There is a wonderful story about this in one of Sudbury Valley’s videos about life at their school, where a teacher explained (and I am paraphrasing here because I do not remember the exact details of the story) about a group of students who had decided to learn advanced math and who, because they were motivated from a point of self-directed will to learn, learned an entire lesson plan that would have otherwise taken students a year to learn, in three months.

If we could learn at our own pace, in the ways that work best for us on an individual level, I am sure that many people would have completely entire education and training programs by the age of eighteen and we would see potential unfold like never before, because we, already from the get-go support each child to explore the fullness of their capabilities.

Imagine for instance, who you would have been, if the adults around you had supported you to discover your potential, from an early age. Would you still be doing what you are doing now? Most likely not, because most of us end up either in totally random positions or in some predetermined life path of doing what was expected of us, without ever questioning whether this is actually where our skills and efforts comes best to use. Because of this, I have no doubt that our emergency rooms are filled with doctors who would have rather been bakers or guitarists, or that our taxicabs are filled with drivers who could have cured cancer or who would have contributed so much more to the world as lawmakers than they do as cabdrivers, had they only been given the opportunity to explore their full potential from childhood.

The bad news is that we are doing the exact same to our kids that has been done to us, and it is therefore imperative that we, as adults, reconnect with our own passion, purpose and potential so that we may stand as examples for the generations to come, and that we find ways to hack, transform and change our education systems, both in the classrooms and in the very political structures, to become systems of support and facilitation of our children’s unique potential.

The good news is that it is not to late for us as adults. We never lose that ‘fire’ inside our natural learning ability, our unique potential and ourselves. It may be but a whisper by the time we turn twenty-five and we may have forgotten that it ever existed once we hit forty, but it is there, waiting for us to embrace it, to stir the embers of the fire that once was, so that our hearts may once again (or perhaps for the first time) burn with a passion for life, for contributing with creating something meaningful and worthwhile to this planet, and to our own lives.

Redefining Education – New Live Show on YouTube with Joao Jesus and Anna Brix Thomsen

Joao Jesus from Life Educators and Anna Brix Thomsen from A Teacher’s Journey to Life are the hosts of a new series of live conversations on YouTube and Google + on Saturdays at 7 pm GMT. The series will feature interviews with experts and trailblazers in the education field as well as live discussions on cutting edge educational methods and philosophies – all with the purpose of redefining education to create a world that is best for all. Please join us with your questions and comments!

If Children Could Vote. 120.

If Children Could Vote. 120.

“I celebrate teaching that enables transgressions – a movement against and beyond boundaries. It is that movement which makes education the practice of freedom.”

– bell hooks

Children are not allowed to partake in the democratic processes of this world, generally because they are considered incapable of addressing complex questions. When we imagine a world ruled by children, it is a world not unlike the one in The lord of the flies, a chaotic world without logical rules, regulations or boundaries, a world where the most demonic aspects of humanity are at the forefront of decision-making.

This view tells us a lot about how we see children, and why children are often discriminated and controlled in ways that only prisoners and mental patients are otherwise subjected to.

Whether we do it implicitly through institutionalized structures or with deliberate intent, we tend to believe that children must be broken down, not unlike feral horses or circus animals, to become civilized members of society.

We cannot blame ourselves; we were brought up the same way; taught that our mistakes and wrongdoings meant that there was something wrong with us, that we were ‘bad’ and ‘malignant’, when all we did was emulating what we saw adults doing.

The thing is: there is nothing that exists within children that didn’t first come from adults – and this is the very fact that we are so much in denial about that we make children scapegoats for our own demonic nature; the spite, the jealousy, the nastiness that we somehow delude ourselves into believing comes directly from them, and not possibly something that they could be learning and picking up from us.

We believe them to be incapable of making common sense decisions, we say that they lack of experience, but we fail to ask ourselves whether the decisions we make, that make up the world, are at all supportive for the purpose of sustaining this planet.

When we take the premise of our prejudice towards children out of the equation, it is becomes redundant to argue that children should not be allowed to partake in the democratic process. To put it bluntly: As adults, we are the ones making a mess of this planet and we have no idea what children could contribute with if they were allowed to – because they have never been allowed an equal voice.

So I conducted a survey among my friends where I asked them to ask their children (or any child) what they would vote for if they could vote. They could vote for anything they wanted to; causes, people you name it.

This is what they said:

8 year old: “Peace and a world without any gangsters.”

11 year old: “Equal money and that everyone has as much as Adele. Not harming any animals and no more weapons!”

5 year old: “Free money so I could buy all the toys I wish for.”

10 years old: “Freedom as a right for everybody to be who they are and do all they want, – without hurting anyone.”

13 year old: “No testing in animals.”

16 year old: “For all parents who don’t educate their children to be forced to.”

8 year old: “To stop bullying. To have cool technology like hover cars and teleportation devices and time machines. That everyone have equal access to these things, the more the merrier. Another thing is better jobs and careers – and that everyone needs to have a fascinating and exciting work life.”

15 year old: “One vote for equality.”

8 year old: “1. I would like everyone to have equal amount of money. 2. That everyone have a home. 3. That everyone would get enough to eat. 4. That all children go to school. 5. And everyone feel well/good.”

10 year old: “To live in a mansion.”

16 year old: “Freedom, no wars, that everyone would be equal no matter what race you come from, what color you have you would be equal to the rest. That we take care of those in need for example refugees.”

11 year old: “Chocolate and world peace!”

7 year old: “Would like to vote for Hillary because I want a girl to be president.”

9-year-old girl: “For women’s rights, for women to not be teased or abused by men”

8 years old: “No more Wars, that everyone has enough money, more much more space for animals to live. Not harming any animals and no more weapons!”

If these kids were allowed to vote, we would have a world with world peace, a world where everyone is supported equally, where men and women are equal, a world without bullying or abuse towards animals, a world where everyone is taken care of – and yes: plenty of chocolate and hover cars and toys and mansions for everyone.

Would it truly be so bad if children could vote? And aren’t we overestimating our own capabilities for making smart political decisions considering the current state of the world?

According to the Gapminder foundation that work to provide a fact-based world view in a world with much ignorance, children currently make up a whopping 27 % of the world’s population, almost a third of the total population of humanity. The world could therefore potentially look very different if children were allowed to vote, and according to an article on the Children’s Rights International’s website, there are plenty of arguments that speak towards that being a smart choice:

1. Children have rational thoughts and make informed choices. They often display very sophisticated decision-making abilities, for example when dealing with a bully at school or an abusive parent. Some claim young people are ignorant of political affairs, but if this is true, it is a truth that extends to many adults. Democracy requires that everyone should have a voice in making the decisions that govern their lives.
2. Children should not be prevented from making decisions simply because they might make the wrong ones. It is important not to confuse the right to do something with doing the right thing. Some argue children would cast their vote frivolously, but many adults do the same or choose not to vote at all.
3. Mistakes are learning experiences and should not be viewed as wholly negative. Children, like adults, grow through a process of trial and error. Decisions made by adults are far from infallible as evidenced by wars, nuclear weapons, global warming and many more bad judgments that have led to pain and suffering. To deny children the right to make mistakes is hypocritical. If the argument is really about competence and not age, then it is not children who should be excluded but the incompetent.
4. Setting age limits on the right to vote is relativistic and arbitrary. Limits vary from country-to-country when it comes to criminal responsibility, sexual maturity and political rights. The negative definition of children as “non-adults” is simplistic. The ages from to 18 encompass an enormous range of skills, competencies, needs and rights. A 16-year-old is likely to have more in common with a 19-year-old than a three-year-old but, according to conventional accounts, the 16 and three-year-old are equally “children”. There is no better example than that of a 17-year-old who dies in a war before even having the right to vote.
5. The exclusion of children from decision-making is unfair because they can do nothing to change the conditions that exclude them. If incompetence was the issue, the stupid could grow wise, but children can not prematurely grow old. This argument confuses particular children with children as a group.
6. The argument for the exclusion of children from decision-making is little more than ill thought through prejudice dressed up as “common sense’”.

Schools such as Sudbury Valley, the Freinet schools and other democratic schools have already with success implemented voting as an integral part of their educational environment where children are equipped with voting rights equal to adults and get to vote on things like what the school budget gets spend on and whether to hire a new teacher. From an early age children who attend these schools, not only learn that their voice and perspectives matter, but they also become familiar with democratic processes involving policy development and they are more likely to grow up being interested in, and caring about being active participants in the general democratic processes within society.

As adults we tend to overestimate our own capabilities of effectively directing the world, but at the same time we also underestimate children’s abilities to contribute and it can even be argued that their perspectives are in fact greatly missed in the political debates and debacles.

Allowing children to partake in the democratic processes of the world could be a progressive step towards world change – and it is not like the world can get much worse than what it already is. As a smart child said once: “If you can’t fix it, then at least stop breaking it.”

I for one, would like to see a world where children had an equal vote to decide what to do with the world and its resources, how to care for animals and poor people and refugees, because I am sure that they would contribute with valuable and common sense perspectives, not to mention creative and compassionate solutions to solve the problems of the world.

We could certainly benefit from seeing the world more like children sees it and I am sure that if we let them, they would gladly help us change the world – and the world would be better off for it.

A really interesting question that I will bring up in my next post is the question of why children so often bring these common sense perspectives to the table and why we as adults do not. What is it that happens in the process of growing up that causes us to loose that ability to look at the world with common sense and actually see the big picture in simplicity?

Deschooling Humanity to Save the World. 119

Deschooling Humanity to Save the World. 119

“Institutional wisdom tells us that children need school. Institutional wisdom tells us that children learn in school. But this institutional wisdom is itself the product of schools because sound common sense tells us that only children can be taught in school. “ – Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

We are all, I am sure, painfully aware that the world as we know it, is in dire need of change. What most of us concerned with this issue, ask ourselves on a daily basis is: how do we reverse the damage we have done to the planet and to ourselves as humanity? Can it even be done?

Yes it can.

Consider this: Everything that exists now, from the way we build our societies to how we treat other species is the result of a process of education. Every single person that is currently alive, has in some way or another been educated or schooled by the generations that have gone before them, to carry on the traditions and habits that make the world go round.

Every dysfunctional family pattern has been passed down generations, just as all ethnocentric history lessons, are passed down year after year in classrooms all over the world. It is a generational cycle of dysfunction that keeps recycling every time a child is born.

Every single human invention that is currently raving havoc on the planet, from the military-industrial complex to war within families, is the result of faulty education; faulty because it creates detrimental consequences, and faulty because it goes against the fundamental aim of education: to teach the upcoming generations how to effectively live and stay alive in the world. That is not what we are teaching them at the moment and the current state of the world is living proof of that. Yet, we assume that the form of education that we know from schooling is the best, and the most optimal and therefore we do not question its legitimacy or monopoly when it comes to decide how our children are to be taught.

We send our kids to school assuming that this is the only option and after all, we think: “”I came out all right after my 8 or 12 or 20 years in the school system and the world is still standing”.  Some even go as far as saying that we are “at the peak of human evolution”, and they celebrate the advent of formal schooling believing that its spread into mass society is a great victory for the abolition of inequality because now everyone can pursue their happiness with equal opportunity through schooling – except, they cannot. The purpose of formal public schooling is not, and has never been to give children equal opportunities, and the fact that our societies are becoming increasingly more unequal and more volatile is a stark proof of that.

Educational facilities resembling prisons, age segregated classrooms, exclusive valuation of cognitive abilities over all other human abilities, deliberate dumbing down of the masses to ensure a pliable workforce and consumer population, childism and bullying are but a few examples of how we are systematically educated to become stifled and blunted human beings. Very few of us grow up with effective adult role models who lead by example, in showing us what it means to be human in sustainable and compassionate ways.

The world wouldn’t look the way it does if our schooling had been effective, if it had taught us to care for our world and ourselves, if it had supported us to think critically and question its systems. The world looks the way it does, because bad seeds of knowledge and information for millennia of time, have been passed on as perpetual errors in the production link that increases the errors for every new edition.

To change the current course we are on, a course that, for all we know is leading us closer and closer to the brink of self-destruction, we need to re-asses what it is we are passing on through our systems of education, whether formal (like schooling) or informal (like family dynamics), that is causing us to live dysfunctionally and out of balance with the equilibrium of the earth as a whole.

We have to break the cycles of dysfunction that have been passed on for generations, and we cannot simply do that by offering our children alternative forms of education. How can we do that when our very own starting-point in life is one of dysfunction? It would only perpetuate the dysfunction in a different environment.

To save the world, we need to deschool ourselves, individually and collectively from the current schooling paradigms (that includes parenting and more informal forms of education), that we have been indoctrinated with through our own upbringing, and that we are actively passing on to new generations.

So what does it mean to deschool ourselves?

The concept of deschooling was originally coined by philosopher Ivan Illich in his book Deschooling Society, where he argued that school has an anti-educational effect on society, while we at the same time, ironically, take schooling for granted as the only correct way to educate children.

“Universal education through schooling is not feasible. It would be no more feasible if it were attempted by means of alternative institutions built on the style of present schools. Neither new attitudes of teachers toward their pupils nor the proliferation of educational hardware or software (in classroom or bedroom), nor finally the attempt to expand the pedagogue’s responsibility until it engulfs his pupils’ lifetimes will deliver universal education. The current search for new educational funnels must be reversed into the search for their institutional inverse: educational webs which heighten the opportunity for each one to transform each moment of his living into one of learning, sharing, and caring.” – Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

Others, especially in the alternative education communities have embraced the concept of deschooling, and for many people who practice unschooling, deschooling is an important step, because both parents and children are indoctrinated into the schooling system, to such a degree that it can be difficult to let it go and allow for a more free approach to a child’s education.

Another proponent of deschooling is Charles Eisenstein, author of the book Sacred Economics (2011) and self-proclaimed de-growth activist. In 2008 Eisenstein organized a workshop titled Deschooling ourselves which was published on YouTube, where he lead a group into an immersion process to discover all the ways that schooling had affected and ultimately stifled their lives. This video is a great example of both the detriment of schooling as well as the importance of deschooling and Eisenstein has furthermore published a deschooling handbook titled The deschooling Convivium: Leaders handbook for those who are interested in embarking on the journey of deschooling.

Besides Ivan Illich, Charles Eisenstein and the unschooling community, not many people know of – or practice – deschooling, or they may use different terms for it, like deprogramming or hacking when it comes to subverting dysfunctional societal structures. Certain forms of therapy and personal development methods have for example incorporated the concept of ‘deprogramming’ oneself from dysfunctional thought- and behavioral patterns, to ultimately free oneself from the past and becoming a supportive member of society.

Deschooling however, must not be confused with the concept of unlearning, because ultimately, we cannot unlearn something that has already been learned. Even if one is able to free oneself from a certain behavioral pattern or belief-system, there will still be a memory of how one integrated it into oneself and accepted it as part of oneself and so it should be, if we are to prevent ourselves from making the same mistakes in the future. We do not forget what has already been learned, but we can decide whether that is what we will continue to live according to, and we can learn new ways of living.

Deschooling is a deliberate deconstruction of the way we have been taught to learn and of the dysfunctional ways school itself has shaped us, as well as the deconstruction of what we have been taught; the ability to critically assess information and to, as the saying goes: “Investigate everything and keep what’s good.” – Something that isn’t taught in school.

Through a process of deschooling, we can reassess everything we have learned, as well as they way we have been taught to learn, and we can empower ourselves to decide on new ways of living, thinking and behaving.

An example could be that I, being taught in a distinct Northern European school system, have learned to see the world through a Eurocentric perspective, a perspective where European thought is the center focus and origin of all other ways of thinking.

By becoming aware of that limitation within myself (through the process of deschooling), I can actively start seeing the world in more holistic ways, by for example traveling to countries outside of Europe and through getting to know other cultures, from a perspective of curiosity and openness, rather than from a perspective of the implicit imperial superiority that I have been indoctrinated with during my school years. Worldschooling is an excellent example of that.

As a sociologist, I can read Japanese social theory or immerse myself in the works of Ibn Khaldun, a renowned Arabic thinker who (outside of Europe) is known as one of the founding fathers of modern sociology, and someone I wasn’t taught about in my years at University. I expand my horizon beyond the frame I have been taught to remain within in school.

What deschooling offers us, is a process of emancipation from institutionalized learning, which in turn gives us the opportunity to take education into our own hands. Even more so, through actively deschooling ourselves, we can begin a process of directively re-learning what it means to be a human in this world.

We can therefore, through deschooling, teach ourselves a different way of living and co-existing, a way that is sustainable and supportive for the restoration of the ecosystems of the planet, something that we are inherently dependent on and yet have forgotten in our current schooling systems. This is imperative if we are going to stand as examples for our children and break the cycles of generational dysfunction, that we carry with us as a latent virus that is unleashed onto our children, whether we like it or not.

When a computer program carries virus and raves havoc on our hard drive, we deprogram it and install a new one that is clean and functional. There is no reason we cannot do that when it comes to our education systems, let alone the world system as a whole.

It is in fact, what is required if we are to save the world.

Playing the Long Game in your Child’s Upbringing. 118

Playing the Long Game in your Child’s Upbringing. 118

As adults, and as parents in particular, we tend to focus on ‘short-term results’ when it comes to our kids. But what is seldom considered is the longitude of a child’s life and how there is so much more to life besides ‘making it’ in the labor force.

When we as parents look at our children’s future, this is often the primary point of concern, and we more often than not, place it as our ultimate goal to get them into the workforce to become productive members of society. Then we have done everything we could. Then we are satisfied and can exhale in relief, knowing that we have finally earned our stripes as parents.

We are so scared of them not making it, that we forget about supporting our children to become WHOLE human beings.

More and more children suffer from stress and anxiety when it comes to performing well in schools and they get younger and younger. The more tests and exams there is in a school environment, the more stress and anxiety there is.

As adults we know very well how complicated and confusing life as a human being can be. From communication in relationships to managing a budget or a diet, we are constantly faced with choices and challenges that form part of being a member of society – and this is true whether we have made it to become successful members of the working force or not.

In fact, research has found that while being successful and making lots of money makes for a more comfortable life, it doesn’t in itself satisfy us on a deeper level as human beings. What is however satisfying (also known as “what makes you happy”) is to have genuine human connections and to live a life that is meaningful to you and where you have time to pursue the things you are interested in.

Too bad most of us do not find out about this until we are way into our 20’s and 30’s or 50’s and most of our bad habits and dysfunctional patterns have already become ingrown parts of us that often requires years of therapy and major life changing events to decode, let alone reverse.

One of the reasons why I am a supporter of unschooling and the continuum concept is exactly because these educational and child-rearing principles considers the whole child and not only the development of cognitive and motoric abilities with the purpose of creating effective worker-bees.

In unschooling environments for example (at least ideally), there is no fear of the child not making something productive of his or her life if they don’t go to school or take tests or exams – and therefore the child is supported to explore their interests unconditionally. Because the child is supported to explore their interests unconditionally, they are also given a trust that in turn can develop into self-trust.

When the child is respected for all that he or she is, every dimension on the child’s development is taken into consideration, whether this is the development of motoric skills or communication or understanding and being able to direct one’s emotions in a supportive way.

When the whole child is considered, there is also a respect for who the child is in its own right, as an individual being who has its own ambitions and interests that cannot be preconceived or determined by a parent or a teacher, and it is therefore much more the role of the parent or the teacher to help the child discover and develop these potentials rather than predefine them. After all, aren’t we ourselves equally on a search to be and become whole human beings? Aren’t we equally interested in being respected for who we are, as who we are?

An important part of becoming this person in a child’s life, who stands with and by the child in equality and integrity, is for the parent or the adult to embark on this journey of discovery for ourselves. After all, how can we stand with the child through its journey as more experienced life-walkers, if we do not in fact have experience of what it means to become whole human beings?

This means that if we as parents or teachers or adults in general wants to give our children the opportunity to already from the get-go develop their entire register of capabilities that is available to them as a potential, we have to first walk this process ourselves.

The process we need to walk is equally about learning how to communicate in supportive ways in our relationships, discovering what makes us satisfied in life on a deeper level and pursue it without fear, and as we do that we become beacons of inspiration who can stand as living examples for our children of what it means to be whole human beings,
Human beings with sound integrity, human beings with compassion, human beings with generosity and confidence and self-trust – everything that we have ever wanted ourselves to be and become if only we dared to admit it to ourselves.

I will leave you with this message:

I wouldn’t worry too much about my child’s academic results if I were you. In fact, I wouldn’t worry at all, because when you worry about your child’s life, you teach them to worry about their lives too.

So if you are a parent or a teacher and if you find yourself worrying daily about tests and exams and whether your child is going to make it or not – I would suggest to stop up for a moment. Take a deep breath and look around you. Most likely nothing is falling apart. Your child isn’t on a path of self-destruction (hopefully!). In fact, everything is quite fine. (And if it truly isn’t, definitely suggest seeking some help). Most likely, your child is healthy and happy and resilient and there are things it needs so much more in life than being forced into a grueling regime of tests and scores and among these things, are you.

Much more than necessarily needing to learn the square root of 3 at the age of 11, your child needs to form a meaningful connection with you as a parent, to see adults who communicate in a sound way, to see and be with animals and nature and all kinds of things this world has to offer, to learn to want to learn on their own and have confidence in their own learning ability. Your child needs to learn how to take care of their own body, and to stand with integrity in their relationship with their body and to be able to sense what foods or substances supports them or not. This will prepare them for life. Learning the square root of 3 will not. I am not saying it isn’t important – but it certainly isn’t the most important thing in a child’s life, not if the goal is to support your child to become a whole human being who can effectively direct and decide over their life.

In the next post I will go deeper into the process of deschooling, the process that I would claim is the key to saving the world. Stay tuned…

References:

http://brainconnection.brainhq.com/2000/07/12/tests-stress-problems-for-students/

http://crazynormaltheclassroomexpose.com/2015/06/22/are-the-high-stakes-tests-linked-to-the-so-called-common-core-state-standards-killing-our-children/

http://www.adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/children/test-anxiety

http://www.menshealth.com/guy-wisdom/why-money-wont-make-you-happy

http://scholar.harvard.edu/files/danielgilbert/files/if-money-doesnt-make-you-happy.nov-12-20101.pdf

http://www.cnbc.com/id/101025441

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201512/the-good-enough-parent-is-the-best-parent

What Keeps Us from Changing the World? 117

What Keeps Us from Changing the World? 117

The world as we know it is at a crossroads, a crossroads where the old is colliding with the new, where past generations feebly cling onto old ways while new generations spearhead towards the future, creating a gap in between of being stuck in transition: We cannot go back to how things were because the world has changed too much, but we also cannot move forward because we still cling on to old ideas about how the world is supposed to be, that we refuse to let go of, to actually allow the world to change.

It can be seen in the dichotomy between the business world and the political arena; the business world has developed and grown uninhibited to the point where it is almost completely fluid as business owners can move and conduct business on all continents of the world without much regulation or control.

A business can be run from one country while paying taxes in another and manufacturing products in a third. International politics on the other hand, has developed very slowly and is almost non-existing when it comes to providing regulations for those businesses that move on a global level, and that impact lives of people all over the globe. Business owners thereby exploit the lack of regulations placed on their businesses, using lack of infrastructure in lesser-developed countries as an excuse to exploit both natural resources as well as people in many countries.

It can be argued that a solution must be implemented that intercepts the rapid development of businesses without regulation and that this solution requires a modernization of our political systems, specifically in the arena of international and transnational politics – not so much to regulate and control businesses but to protect vulnerable nations and peoples from being exploited and destabilized.

The same dichotomy between the old and the new can be seen when it comes to education.

The school systems (but even the very notion of schooling itself) operate with archaic methods that leave students neither very well educated nor well informed, but with massive student debts that only seem to increase exponentially each year.

The rapid developments of digital technologies and the emergence of the internet has in contrast made it possible for kids all over the world to educate themselves, to gain access to any form of information ever produced, and to even be able to publicize themselves in a vast array of arenas from film production to journalism and photography, often completely free of charge, with nothing more than the push of a button on a smartphone or tablet.

Similarly as to how businesses can operate with great flexibility and without much political oversight, kids today can move more or less freely online, creating social media accounts en mass and often to the great dismay of adults who are in no way as skilled as using these tools and who therefore are not in a position to supervise or even advise the child on how to use these devices and services.

Online bullying and the emergence of easily accessible hardcore pornography are some of the pitfalls of the Internet that many kids are exposed to today, in a much higher degree than most adults are even aware of or capable of controlling.

Very few schools (or parents for that matter) show kids how to effectively navigate, not only the internet but also the thousands of ‘worlds’ sprouting up inside of it, as well as the devices used to access these worlds and when they do, it is again using archaic and condescending methods assuming the kids are at a lesser developed stage of internet mobility and navigation than that of adults when they are in fact quantum leaps ahead of us.

The Internet is a wonderful and chaotic place and it is in many ways the only truly anarchistic ‘place’ on the planet, but because of that, kids also have very little guidance on how to move and navigate online in a way that is supportive for them. It is a double-edged sword.

On one hand, it is the deregulated (and thereby uncensored) nature of the Internet that causes kids to be exposed to things they shouldn’t see, that no one in fact should see. But it is at the same time also what allows kids and adults alike to educate themselves on things that never would have been allowed into schools twenty years ago. There is an enormous potential for personal empowerment when everything you ever wanted to learn is at your finger tips, literally free of charge, and you can do it more or less completely on your own.

It can in fact be argued that schools, as places where kids are supposed to obtain skills and knowledge, becomes utterly redundant when the internet offers everything the school can offer, with the click of a button. And maybe this is exactly why very few schools focus on supporting kids to learn how to navigate the internet in the most effective ways, obviously because most teachers have no idea how to do that themselves, but certainly also because it would give the students the power to take responsibility for their own education and that would cause a potential collapse of the school system as we know it.

The political system has a lot to learn from the business world. Despite its many flaws, especially in the social and ecological responsibility department, the business world has been developed many effective way to structure collaboration and interaction between people all over the world. The political arena has to catch up to that, at least if politicians are serious about regulating for example the way fracking and timber companies are exploiting the earth’s natural resources. Or maybe it doesn’t. Maybe the business world should instead be developed to incorporate the best features of the political arena, the responsibility and accountability towards the public and the land or maybe the two worlds ought to merge, as they are already so intertwined that it is difficult to tell where politics begins and where business ends.

One thing is certain: We are standing at a crossroads in human evolution where we can no longer deny the fact, that what we have taken for granted as being stable structures that support life, like the political and educational arenas, are not meeting the demands of the time. It is time to come up with new structures, maybe more flexible or fluid structures that more effectively adapt to the fluidity of an increasingly global society.

The current political and education systems are built on false pretenses and it has now become evident that neither system in its current format supports the development of a world that is best for all.

This is why we need to support these old systems to collapse because they cannot keep up with the exponential development of our societies but even more importantly, we have to stand ready with new and fresh ideas of how to conduct politics for example, in a highly globalized world, or how to conduct education in a way that honors the sovereignty of kids to learn on their own hand.

We can only come up with these new ideas if we stop clinging onto the old. We have to allow ourselves to, for the first time, think completely out of the box that is this world system and imagine a completely new way of life. We cannot change world as long as we insist on doing things the way we have always done it. That is the challenge of the times we are in, but it is also a unique opportunity arisen from the fact that the redundancy of the old has become evident, and therefore, coming up with new ways of doing things is not only imperative, but in fact inevitable. All that remains to be seen is how long we will remain stuck in transition before we finally let go – and start over.

How do you raise a child? 116

How do you raise a child? 116

How do you raise a child?

My answer: you don’t.

Have a look at how a child learns to crawl, stand and walk. The child does that on its own. The adult might support with various devices like walkers and strollers, or through encouragingly inviting the child to stumble into their embrace, but it is the child alone that instinctively on a visceral level figures out how to manage its muscles and bones to eventually raise itself from the ground and onto two feet.

It is not like the child has to go through tedious ‘crawling training’ where parents use various techniques to coax the child into crawling or force the child to stand in the crawling position until it starts crawling on its own. Sounds absurd, abusive even? Well, it is a technique many parents use for what is known as ‘potty training’. Learning how to read and write is another example where we impose an artificial model onto the child and expect certain results on a scheduled basis according to the child’s age.

So why is that we trust the child to raise itself up from the ground without having to go through classes and training sessions while there is so much more we would never trust in the hands of the child to learn on their own?

As adults we believe that we have, not only a responsibility but also a prerogative when it comes to raising a child. We think that we know what is best, and that we are the best to show our children how to best live in the world.

After all, we are the ones who bring the child off of the ground, or at least so we think; we see ourselves as the gatekeepers of human evolution, who raises the child from the hunched and primitive ape stage into the upright homo sapiens creature that we proudly identify ourselves as today.

There is just one problem:

As adults we know virtually nothing about the world or how to effectively live in it. We can barely maintain personal relationships due to lack of effective communication skills and understanding of our own psyches. Professionally most of us walk around like sheep desperately awaiting the next paycheck while complaining that we do not have time to work on the things we really care about. A lot of us are either passive aggressive or just straight up aggressive our we simply don’t really care about anything as we go about our daily lives in a haze of entertainment and stimulation.

Many adults claim to have values, but very few adults actually live or stand by their values. Many adults also talk a lot to children about values like friendship and sharing but seldom stand as a living example of what it means to live those values. Then there are the insecurities, the neuroses, and the addictions that we as adults drag around, along with our mommy issues and sexual frustrations.

If you have a look at the state the world is currently in, we have as adults not done a particular good job at taking care of it all. We start wars for no reason, we pollute the oceans and then we try to fix it with our mock political systems that everyone knows are nothing but puppet shows to keep the masses contained. And yet, when it comes to children, we see ourselves as these omnipotent figures who are pr. definition always right.

Let’s be honest: Adults are in no way capable or qualified of raising children or educating them on how to be in the world. We are, in fact, the worst possible example any new members of the human race could be given to model themselves after.

This is not to say that all of us would make horrible parents or that we should not have children, but that we ought to view ourselves with more humble eyes than most of us currently do when it comes to our relationship with children, and to not assume that we do or that we should know everything about the world and that when we share/show something to a child, that it is automatically right or true.

In fact, I am sure that if we as adults took an approach to child-rearing as it were, where we saw ourselves as equally learning from the child as they learn from us, that everyone would benefit.

See, the difference between children and us adults is that they have not (yet) as we have, been brought up by adults exhibiting all the same flaws and dysfunctional patterns that we are now exhibiting due to our upbringing.

That means that we from the get-go have the opportunity to do things differently with them, to break the cycles of dysfunction and stupidity that we ourselves were recycled into. One way of doing that is by not enforcing our ideas and beliefs on the child, but to see the moment a child comes into our lives as an opportunity for a fresh start where we together with the child can learn how to best live in the world, both for ourselves and for everyone around us.

So when a child comes into our lives, whether through our own loins or through the process of education in one way or another or in some other way, we can actively change our approach from by default seeing ourselves as the ones who has to raise the child, to seeing the relationship with the child as one where both raise themselves together in mutual support and joy of learning.

There are many things a child can learn from adults around it, but there are equally as many things we as adults can learn from children, and so if we dared to, we could utilize the opportunity of being in a learning process with a child to also re-educate ourselves to get to know the world again, this time with more awareness of our past mistakes and thus with an ability to direct ourselves more clearly, while at the same time see the world through the eyes of the child and from there discover a new way of living on earth because we are on one hand living it for the first time and on the other are bringing wisdom and experience into the process.

Children do not need us to raise them. They are perfectly capable of raising themselves. What they do need is our steady support and assistance and that we raise ourselves to live our full potential so that we may stand as an example to them of what is possible when it comes to being a human being in this world.

What is a Child? 115

What is a Child? 115

If I were to illustrate what it is like to be a child in an adult world, it would be an image of being surrounded by lots and lots of legs, the legs of adults that stand and move around you, seemingly without giving any regard to your existence. Theirs is the ‘real world’, up there in the clouds, among their important heads and animated arms and talking mouths, and you are like a little bug that buzzes around them, an annoying little bug that is easily pushed aside and squashed because it is so unimportant.

Adults are always so busy, so preoccupied with “important things that children don’t understand” that it is as though every moment becomes a ‘life or death crisis’ that requires the full and undivided attention of the adult. It doesn’t matter whether this is a moment of shopping groceries or some other trivial everyday activity or an actual real crisis situation; adults always seem like soldiers marching into war and whatever they are busy with is always more important than the child, even when it is not in fact.

It is as though we as adults perceive children as a form of disturbance or nuisance in our (very important and busy) lives. As a child I noticed this and I noticed how adults, because of how they perceive children and how they perceive themselves and their time, often do not listen to children or hear them out but make snap judgments and assumptions – often coming to the (wrong) conclusion that the child is being ‘wasteful’ or ‘spiteful’ or ‘whining’ when the child might simply be expressing a need or want in a moment that by the adult is perceived as ‘bad timing’.

As a child I often felt misunderstood and unfairly treated, especially in those moments where adults seemed so busy and preoccupied. When I spoke to them and they for a brief moment glanced at me, it was as though they saw straight through me, as though I were not really there, or as though I to them were more a theoretical concept than an actual living being. I was ‘a child’.

Adults also very often make promises that they then cannot or choose not to uphold when it comes to children as though a promise to a child is worth less than say, a promise to another adult like a co-worker, friend or boss. What is even worse is that we tend to find a way to blame the child so as to not admit that we have been untrustworthy and unreliable and not only does it make the child distrust us, it also makes them distrust themselves and their own perception of reality. After all, adults are supposed to be the guides of this earth that welcomes the new generation into life and shows them the way.

But what way is it really we are showing them?

It is imperative that we as a society, and especially as parents and in fields working with children start discussing how we define the word ‘child’, not only in a literal sense but also through the hidden judgments and assumptions that makes us not see the person standing in front of us (although only half our size) but instead only see an abstract concept that we call ‘child’.

There is no way of truly getting a child to respect you unless you respect them first. When children are met with equal respect as we would give another adult or that we would have wanted to be met with ourselves, when we actually stop up and listen and even when we are busy give them a moment of our time, they meet this respect with honor and a genuine wish to reciprocate this respect.

If we on the other hand continue to approach children with judgments and preconceived assumptions where we have already before they speak, made up our minds about who they are, they will continue to perpetuate the image we have of them. There are so many instances where we as adults can misunderstand a child’s intentions or requests because we are honestly too preoccupied in our own minds to even really care. The consequence is often that the child end up making mistakes or doing things that we consider to be ‘wrong’ because WE were not clear in our communication with them or because WE didn’t listen properly and what is even worse: when we then haphazardly scold them (because we are again too busy and see them as a disturbance) they do not learn how to practically correct their mistakes or see how they could have been prevented but instead learn that THEY are ‘wrong’, that THEY are ‘bad’ – when nothing could be further from the truth.

A child coming into this world is the potential of a new beginning, a way of doing things differently, better, learning from our mistakes – isn’t that what evolution is supposed to be all about; humanity as a species evolving and adapting to become stronger and more resilient?

Then why do we keep creating the same mistakes over and over through insisting on children being and becoming the spit images of the very worst parts of ourselves?

When I was around 10 years old, I made a promise to myself: That I would never forget what it is like to be a child. I saw so many adults around me that had completely forgotten what it was like to be a child and because of this, they treated children with callous distance, always assuming the worst from the child. So I decided that I would always keep my childhood with me and that when I became an adult, I would treat children as I would have wanted to be treated when I was a child. This promise is the foundation of everything I do in my work today.

Anyone can do the same.

It is really quite simple: all we need to do is to practice meeting children with respect and dignity and each time they come to us, take a moment to stop up and really consider what they are saying, asking or showing – without preempted contempt or judgment. And if we truly are too busy, we can arrange for a time to take or say that we will come back to them with a proper answer. Let’s see the highest and most utmost potential our children can be and become and let’s treat them accordingly, with dignity, honor and respect. How else are they going to become future adults who embody these qualities?

How Sudbury Schools Challenges Traditional Perspectives on Children and Childhood. 114

How Sudbury Schools Challenges Traditional Perspectives on Children and Childhood. 114

“If you observe children learning in their first few years of life, you can see that they can and do learn on their own – we leave them alone to crawl, walk, talk, and gain control over their bodies. It happens without much help from parents. You can’t make someone learn something – you really can’t teach someone something – they have to want to learn it. And if they want to learn, they will.” – Daniel Greenberg, Co-founder of the Sudbury Valley school

A couple of weeks ago I visited the first Sudbury school in Denmark together with a group of fellow educational activists and school developers from Sweden.

The Danish Sudbury School is modeled and named after the original school situated in Sudbury Valley in Massachusetts in the United States.

The Sudbury School is one of the only schools in the world that bases its activities on self-directed learning and unschooling principles, giving children the freedom (and responsibility) to explore their interests uninhibited.

At a Sudbury school there are no classes, no grades and no age segregation. Children from the ages of 4-18 are welcomed into the school without specific enrollment requirements (besides the willingness to embrace the school’s principles).

The basic principle of the Sudbury school is that children are equipped with a natural learning ability that does not require adult control or interference, so at Sudbury schools children are encouraged to follow their own interests and passions in whatever way they wish, be that fishing for months on end or playing computer games for hours and hours.

For people who are used to traditional forms of schooling, Sudbury schooling might sound extreme, radical and even dangerous. “How are children going to learn without adults teaching them?” “How are they going to prepare to step into society without formal education?” “How do they learn to read and write?” “Aren’t the kids just sitting around wasting their day doing nothing when they have this kind of total freedom?”

We have become so conditioned (through our own schooling) to take traditional formal schooling for granted that we cannot even fathom that it is possible to learn without adult interference and control. We assume that traditional forms of schooling are optimally designed to teach us everything we need to know and that its structures of control are created for our protection and safety.

In traditional schooling forms children are viewed as being naturally resisting towards learning and even as savage and malignant in nature and this is why so many structures of control and force are used to keep the child contained and confined.

But what if it is in fact the other way around? That all the structures of control and force embedded in traditional school is what is causing children to become defiant, apathetic and resisting towards learning?

At Sudbury schools a great amount of trust is placed on the child’s ability to direct its own learning. Children are seen as competent and equal members of society who has just as much to contribute with as any adult. Children are given the space and time to find out what interests them and the support of adults and the learning environment to pursue those interests.

In his book Free at last, Daniel Greenberg, one of the founders and chief philosophers of the Sudbury Valley School writes that children at Sudbury schools often learn vast amounts of materials in short periods of time. Greenberg shares an example about a group of 9-12 year old children who wanted to learn math and who, because they were dedicated and self-directed in their aim to learn, with the help of a math teacher, learned the entire 6th through 12th grade curriculum of math in 20 weeks.

What is difficult is not to learn the material in itself but how traditional schools tries to pound it into the heads of children who hates every step of it. The only way to do that is through consistently repeat the material over and over for years on end, and even then there is no guarantee that the child will remember what it was taught. A child who wants to learn however, who has initiated the learning process on their own, can learn something within a matter of days or weeks.

We need to reassess the way we look at education, because at the moment we are holding, not only individual children back from developing their full potential, but in fact entire generations of children and as a result: humanity as a whole.

This is directly reflected in the current state of the world which, as should be obvious to all of us know, is in a state of uproar and disintegration.

Sudbury schools are a powerful example of children’s ability to learn without adult interference and how what comes out on the other end of that education is not a lazy, apathetic, illiterate human being, which is ironically most often a product of traditional schooling.

Adults do not want children to be free, because they fear children, but it is not so much that they fear the children but in fact that they fear themselves. This is what traditional schools teach us: to fear our natural expression, to see it as too wild, too unruly to be left unrestrained. Since childhood we’ve come to associate moments of natural expression with being scolded, simply because most traditional schools (and most families as well) aren’t designed to harness or embrace that natural expression within us – and so we never realize how that wildness, given the right environment could allow us to bloom into our utmost unique potential. If we should learn anything from the Sudbury experiment, it is that. If there’s anything we should model our societies after, it is that.

Stifling THAT child, Stifling the Whole World. 113

Stifling THAT child, Stifling the Whole World. 113

As teachers, parents and adults in general we have become accustomed to categorizing the people we meet into neat little boxes of judgment and preconceived prejudice based on first hand impressions dictated by our biased minds.

Sounds brutal, unfair?

Well it is, especially for the children, who too fall victim to these snap judgments made by adults, adults who are supposed to be their guardians and champions and role models. We sit and wonder how terrorists or school shooters are created and we can come up with all sorts of psychological analysis of boys growing up with too little men in their life or too much heavy metal or religion, but we never consider that the very notion of adulthood relative to childhood is a culprit of such issues.

We have become so accustomed to taking adulthood for granted as a position of seniority that we cannot even conceive of it being possible to question it, let alone its reason for existing in the first place.

A teacher or social worker sees a student. Let’s say he is black or Mexican or from the Middle East. Or maybe she has a big nose or is slightly overweight or has fiery red hair. Instantaneously snap judgments are made based on preconceived bias about certain groups of people. Maybe they are based in fear.

Maybe the teacher or social worker, or even the parent had some traumatic experience as a small child that they can’t even remember that causes them to react with revulsion towards a certain feature or based on something they saw on TV. Sometimes it is obvious and directly spawning from villains created by the media, other times it is more personal and intricate.

Whatever the case may be, the fact of the matter is that we as adults, even in professional ‘care-taker’ capacities, ostracize and stigmatize children through subtle judgments and assumptions about their character, inherent features or level of intelligence.

It is through holding such judgments, bias and assumptions that we hold children back from being all that they can be, when we say: “Oh no, he can’t do that, he’s not smart enough.” Or “I wouldn’t let him do that, they have a tendency to steal, they can’t be trusted.”

The following is a perfect example of how we as adults stifle children’s potential through categorizing and stigmatizing them, even into such normative categories as ‘toddlers’ or ‘teenagers’ or even as broad as ‘children’.

Many years ago I was working in a preschool. I was young and new to the education field. I was assigned to a classroom with 3-4 year olds and was sitting with a young girl, who happened to be stigmatized by the adults as ‘slow’. She was, as they say in psychiatry “double diagnosed” which meant that she in the eye of the adults had not only one, but two stigmas going against her: she was young and she was apparently slow.

Fortunately I wasn’t aware of the stigmas that we as preschool teachers were supposed to envelop the children in, so I gladly went ahead with a project with this little girl based on a book I had found with templates where you could cut and paste stuff to make little figurines out of cardboard.

We worked on the project together and the little girl created the template and the figurine as listed in the book. Shortly thereafter one of the older teachers came in. She took the book that I had used for inspiration and looked at the template we were working on.

She said: “THEY can’t do that, they are WAY too young for that! This is a book for 5 YEARS OLD AND UP! They simply don’t have the capabilities to do something like this, it is WAY too difficult.”

“Oh?” I said. “She just did it, see?”

I had no idea that the child wasn’t supposed to be able to do something that some child development psychologist or motor skill specialist had decided she couldn’t do.

Now, imagine how many times a child is exposed to this type of biased and judgmental behavior from adults in their life – and how easily it comes to affect their own view of themselves and what they are and aren’t capable of?

We literally have billions of people who walk around completely stifled because they haven’t been given the opportunity to actually discover what they are really capable of.

And not only this, but through the constant and continuous bias and judgments that we as adults impose on children, especially in the school and social care system, children from certain ethnic groups are stigmatized to such a degree that self-fulfilling prophecies are sealed on a daily basis, resulting in people becoming dropouts, school shooters and common criminals.

Consider this: each human being has a universe inside of them, a completely unique blueprint, a seed if you will, with all kinds of different skills and potentials and aspects. Very few people are as one-dimensional as we make them out to be when we make our first-hand impression.

But we won’t get access into that universe, unless we actively open ourselves up to it, because our bias have become our default approach to other people. So we actively have to start looking at what is beyond our initial judgments when we meet another person, or when we see a child behaving in a certain way. Maybe their behavior is contextual; maybe it is caused by fear. Maybe we are as adults perpetuating it by treating the child based on our bias and thereby we are in fact responsible for their behavior – and for it not changing.

Children are nothing, if not bundles of unleashed potential. They are not stupid or ill equipped or maniacal. As adults we can support the making of them as the potential of who they can become, or we can break them with our bias and our judgments, and they will grow up to become exactly who we expect them to be and we can say: “I told you so, he was up to no good”.

Every single human being has a unique potential that, when they live and express that, become the best that they can be – not only for themselves but also in service of the world as a whole, a unique way that they can contribute with to the world.

By stifling that (whether directly or indirectly), we are holding each other and ourselves in a permanent gridlock where nothing can change.

We say we want change, but if we really are serious about it, it is vital that we dare to question our own bias and presumptions and be open towards the fact that the world might not be what we think it is, and that we therefore must act differently in it, to bring about change. After all, we too have the potential to be and become so, much more than who and what we believe ourselves to be today.

If you are interested in reading more about discrimination towards children, I recommend my previous blog-post where I discussed childism and education at the precipe of change. My friend over at Toca Boca, Jens Peder de Pedro also wrote an excellent article on children being people too that I recommend reading. I invite you to connect with me on Facebook and Instagram where I regularly share my insights and perspectives in real time. I also recommend investigating the Living Income Guaranteed Proposal which is a progressive proposal for world change that I stand behind 100 %.

Education at The Precipice of Change. 112

Education at The Precipice of Change. 112

“We stand upon the precipice of change. The world fears the inevitable plummet into the abyss. Watch for that moment…and when it comes, do not hesitate to leap.“ – Flemeth, Dragon Age

Throughout the course of human history there have been certain periods in which the advancement of new technologies took quantum leaps. This is no more true than in the times we live in right now, where the very foundation upon which our societies are built are changing in rapid speed, especially through the introduction of a digital and global civilization.

Not only are we living in an era where more quantum leaps than ever are taken in the areas of human development on all possible levels; we are also living in a time where the traditional boundaries between children and adults are disintegrating before our very eyes.

I am sure that all parents, however old, can recognize themselves in the scenario where their 2-year-old or 5-year-old or 17-year-old navigates digital devises with a natural ease that they themselves can only dream of, and that because their child is able to navigate these devises as were it a native speaker of their language, feel like a foreigner in a foreign country.

Our adult-child relations are based on the foundation that adults pr. Definition knows more about the world than the child and therefore has the responsibility, but also the prerogative to educate and administer the child, based on the assumption that because the adult knows more about the world, they also knows what is best for the child and therefore assumes an automated role of authority and superiority with the child as their minion to mold as they see fit.

Through the rapid advancements, especially in the development of digital technologies, a transition of the role of being knowledge-bearing is shifting from adults to children, with the children being the ones who knows the most about how to best navigate the virtual world through digital devises as well as the devises themselves.

There have been other eras in the course of human history where the younger generations came up with, or embrace new inventions in ways that rattled the older generations, but it has never happened in the profound way that it is happening right now, where the new inventions are affecting all areas of human life from social relationships to banking and education.

This means that the generations growing up right now are faced with the challenge of having to teach themselves since adults are in many cases far behind them when it comes to understanding virtual and digital worlds, although most adults still cling onto the illusion that they are (or at least should be) capable of teaching children these tools from a stance of authority.

As an adult who works with supporting children to become self-empowered and self-directive, I can tell you that nothing could be further from the truth, and the more we as adults try to reign in children and prevent the integration between digital and physical societies, the more they are simply going to do it without us, because it is a process that cannot – and should not – be stopped.

What would be much more beneficial is for us as adults to be humble towards the transformation happening, and rather than trying to position ourselves as captains of a ship that we know nothing about steering, stand as pillars of support for the coming generations and together embark on a journey of discovery and immerse ourselves in this brave new world.

It ought to be clear now, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we have come to the end of rope of our current way of conducting education in this world. There are absolutely no reason why children should not be able to direct their own educational processes aligned to their individual needs and interests – in fact, many results show that this type of education is the most beneficial for individual learning which in turn is most beneficial for society as a whole because the individual is able to develop so much more of their unique potential.

The current education system is archaic at best – and at worst it is clung onto and safeguarded by adults who fear losing their position of power despite knowing how redundant the system in fact is, because it would mean admitting that we as adults are redundant – like a species that did not adequately adapt to the demands of an evolving environment and therefore dies out and vanishes as new life forms takes its place.

We therefore have a choice: we can either embrace the imminent changes and support the coming generations to dismantle the current education system or we can cling onto an archaic system just because we are afraid of letting go of control and thereby make an inevitable process more difficult for everyone involved.

By immersing ourselves in the opportunity that lay before us, to deconstruct and redefine, not only the education systems, but the entire foundation upon which we live on this planet, we too will change, transform and evolve – so rather than trying to hold onto an illusion of importance and authority when it is evident that this belongs to a past long gone, we can make new meaning of ourselves, redefine what it means to be an adult – and create the life for ourselves that we’ve always wanted, but that we never even dared to dream of… until now.

There is a new wave of education underway. You can either let it wash over you and be crushed, or you can learn how to ride it. One thing is certain: it cannot be stopped.

Why are We Here and What are We Here to Learn? 111

Why are We Here and What are We Here to Learn? 111

Education can be defined and reflected upon through many layers or dimensions, some of which are more pure and practical, where others are constructed for the purposes of promoting particular discourses in society.

The most superficial dimension, the one we take for granted in our daily lives, is for instance the belief that all children need to go to school from the ages of six to sixteen, that they should read textbooks to learn about the world and that they should be taught by a teacher. In some cultures education happens when the child is integrated into the daily work of the adults and through a process of apprenticeship learn how to navigate and handle the reality they are a part of. There is no school, and yet – the child is educated.

As such, how we see education is very much dependent on the discourses that we have been brought up with and have come to take for granted.

Looking deeper into the layers of the word education, in a primordial sense, at least in the context of human experience, education is a process of learning from past generations to find the most effective ways to survive. As social animals, we do that through our societies and through our relationships with other human beings, but what if it is possible to look even further?

What does education mean in an existential context?

Why are we here and what are we here to learn?

Some would claim that we are here by the grace of divine intervention, to learn about what it means to be human or to go through a process of karmic evolving, eventually resulting in a form of ‘graduation’ that they call enlightenment. Others believe we are here due to the sins of our ancestors and that our purpose is to earn the forgiveness of God to be accepted back into his graces.

Education is thus on a an existential level, intrinsically intertwined with the question of why we are here and what the meaning of life is, as much as it is grounded in a practical reality question of how to survive in the most effective way.

It is an interesting conundrum because as soon as we ask the questions “Why are we here?” and “What are we here to learn?” we are implicitly implying that we exist in a predetermined existence with an intentional beginning, middle and ending, as were we nothing but the mere fictional characters in a story sprung from an author’s imagination.

But what if there is no such preordained purpose with our lives? Or what is there is, but it is steering us towards the path of destruction? Wouldn’t we want to reexamine that which we call education and to what purpose we engage ourselves within it?

Instead of looking for a preordained and finite answer through which we define ourselves as but the instruments of an abstract divine will, we can change the way we approach these questions. Instead of looking for an answer that is already decided upon, we can decide to answer these questions for ourselves.

In investigating the answers one would give to these questions, one can then also investigate the potential consequential outflows that follow. If you for example decide that we are here to have fun and experience as much as possible, then the point of education becomes a process of learning how to do just that. But what would the world look like if all we focused on were having fun? How long would we be able to sustain ourselves on the planet?

As such, the logical way to answer these questions for oneself would be to look for the most optimal and sustainable long-term approach. If we were to decide that we are here ‘to live’ for example, we would want to make sure that we could actually do that, by taking care of our habitat, because otherwise we would be antagonizing our very own purpose for existing, which would be rather pointless.

If we are interested in the process of creating an optimized, fertile and expansive life for ourselves on this planet where we thrive on an individual level as well as through the global ecosystems that sustain us, we ought to investigate the predetermined and implicit answers to the questions of why we are here and what we are here to learn because whatever the answers to these questions are, is what we are already living.

It could look something like this: “We are here to destroy life.” Or “We are here to consume all resources until there is nothing left.” Or “We are here to compete with each other with the goal of one of us being king over existence and become immortal and untouchable and have control over all life.” It is quite absurd when you look at it this way, but isn’t this what we are already living?

The question of what we are here to learn thus cannot be answered without also answering the question of why we are here and as such, educational process, even in the most surface layers of dimensions will always be connected to this question and the way we answer it, whether implicitly or with intent.

Education is therefore something that ought to be revised and questioned and evaluated on a continuous basis – and not as it is now, taken for granted and locked into static and archaic models, models that does not in any way support life to thrive.

In answering the question of why we are here, with awareness and responsibility, through making a decision based on common sense, the process of education can be clearly determined. In not answering the question of why we are, ghosts of the past will continue to haunt our existence and will possess our every move, as were we nothing but marionette dolls on imaginary strings held up by the figment of our own imagination.

We can make the decision – through directive deliberation and consideration – to decide that we are here, firstly and foremost to stop the destruction of the planet and our habit and to stop the unnecessary suffering of billions of life forms, and secondly, to create a co-existence on the planet that supports all individual life forms to thrive in the most optimal way for all to thrive.

This in fact, ought to be the most fundamental and commonsense form of education, because without it we will always be doing nothing but putting out fires only to reignite them, to do damage control and create makeshift solutions that doesn’t ever really get us anywhere.

We ought to have a common living principle of saying that: first we make sure that our habitat is optimal and that all life forms are supported to thrive and only when this is ensured can we begin to explore what other reasons we will decide to give ourselves for existing. Only then can we begin to explore what it really means to be alive. Isn’t that why we are here? To discover the real meaning of Life?

The Miseducation of Your Humanity. 110

The Miseducation of Your Humanity. 110

Education is a process that each new generation goes through, to learn about the ways of the world so as to effectively integrate into society. We educate our young so that we may not have to reinvent the wheel over and over with every new generation – and it is because of education that we have been able to progress from the horse carriage wheel to the motorized wheel and who knows, maybe someday soon we will implement the hovercraft in its place.

I will argue that education is the most important process for the continuous development of our societies, not only in terms of building on past experiences but also in terms of learning from mistakes made in the past.

Throughout the course of human history we have learned a great deal. We have categorized and sorted the resources of our planet so efficiently that we have turned the planet itself into gigantic organized industrialized machinery that enables us to produce massive amounts of food, fuel and other goods at record speed, all year round.

We used to look upon ourselves as the result of a continuous process of upward progression as we marveled at our own inventions. We still do to some extent, as new technologies are manufactured that seems to break the barriers between the magical and the laws of physics.

There is something else happening as well. We are starting to envision the karmic downfall of our rapid climb through evolution. As our intelligence has evolved, so has our ability to destruct. As our knowledge about the world has expanded, so has the cruelty of our methods of extracting resources from the earth. We are starting to realize that we might not be as smart as we thought, as our eagerness to progress also have brought with it the mass-extinction of entire animal species and seemingly never-ending wars. This too, is a result of education.

“Think of the things killing us as a nation: narcotic drugs, brainless competition, dishonesty, greed, recreational sex, the pornography of violence, gambling, alcohol, and — the worst pornography of all — lives devoted to buying things, accumulation as a philosophy. All of these are addictions of dependent personalities. That is what our brand of schooling must inevitably produce. A large fraction of our total economy has grown up around providing service and counseling to inadequate people, and inadequate people are the main product of government compulsion schools. – John Taylor Gatto

Every animal goes through a process of education, from the baby chicken that carefully listens after its mother’s chuckles indicating which plants are to be eaten and which are not, to the walrus that gently teaches its calf how to pull its weight out of the water or the Nile crocodile that carries its offspring in a small pouch inside the mouth to a water hole where it teaches them to hunt.

The difference between animal and human education is that animals educate their young ones to survive. Evolution is something that develops over time as the need to survive changes and forces a species to adapt. As such, it can be argued that animals aren’t as ambitious or forward thinking as human beings, which would obviously also explain why we are at the top of the food change with no natural enemies… except for ourselves.

I will argue, that with the state the world is in, we are not educating our young to survive. How can we claim to do that with one hand, while the other hand is busy destroying the planet?

If education is where common sense starts, where we learn how to take care of our environment, how to effectively integrate in society, we ought to STOP all education right now and ask ourselves what in the hell we’ve been doing in our school systems to create the situation we are in right now. Because it could not have happened without education. As such, something or someone must’ve educated us to treat the planet so poorly, or rather – something or someone have NOT educated us to actually REALLY care.

It is difficult to say how far back our miseducation goes. Maybe it all went wrong with the onset of industrialization, maybe it was public schooling that did the trick or the ancient Greeks or maybe it goes all the way back to the beginning of human civilization. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that what we are doing right now is not working.

We cannot have a constant continuous progression without also taking time to do maintenance on our ‘machinery’, take time to stabilize and nurture the resources we rely on; such is the law of physics of living on a planet dependent on its Eco-systems to thrive. Instead we live in an abstract place in our minds where time and space is suspended, and we arrogantly think that we can manifest our fantasies and desires into reality without considering the consequences we impose on reality because of it.

As such, we have to look at what parts of our education of our young (that we’ve too learned from those who came before us) are causing us to be destructive rather than protective of our environment – and accordingly realign our education to prevent further damage and find solutions to the immanent matters at hand.

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” – Alvin Toffler

There are so many educational theories, so many pedagogical and didactic philosophies and strategies for how to best educate children to become productive members of society. We want them to be educated as fast as possible, to a small a cost as possible and yet we very seldom ask ourselves WHY we are educating our children the way we do; we simply take the current models of education (or schooling rather) for granted as THE way, while in no way looking at the kind of society that it produces and how that society in turn functions as a part of the eco-system of the planet.

With the intellect and ambition we as human beings have, we ought to be the proud guardians of this planet, not its clumsy and ignorant destroyers.

We ought to honor the responsibility we have of actually being able to actively educate ourselves, not just to survive, but to progress and evolve beyond our instinctual programming.

Come on humanity; show us what you’ve got! Live up to your self-proclaimed ability to evolve beyond bestiality and rise to the occasion of proving yourself worthy as life.

Because we have been miseducated by the generations that came before us, we have a responsibility to firstly deschool ourselves and unlearn, that which makes us destructive as a species. But while we are busy doing that, we also have a responsibility to simultaneously re-educate ourselves and develop forms of education that will enable us to protect and nourish the planet and all life around us and in time, develop sustainable methods of evolution that works to the benefit of all life. That is real progress. That is real education.

Join me Monday where I will be on the panel on For The Love of Learning – Voices of the Alternative Education Movement together with Brandon Hay and Zak Slavback, hosted by Lainie Liberti. It will be one heck of a show where we will discuss life-long learning, digital learning in the 21. Century and how we as individuals can we make conscious choices to continue to grow, evolve and meet the needs of a changing world as a life long pursuit.
The show airs at 8 pm EST on Monday and for European night owls we go live at 1 am BST.

 

The Good News and the Bad News of Why Learning Cannot be Forced. 109.

The Good News and the Bad News of Why Learning Cannot be Forced. 109.

You cannot force someone to learn. You can threaten them, you can punish them, you can force them to sit still and listen (or pretend to listen), but you cannot force them to learn.

No one can be forced to learn.

Why is it then, that our entire schooling system and the strategies with which most parents raise their children are based on the very premise that children can be forced to learn?

How many of us have not experienced information being forced upon us through threats of punishment?

I am sure most of us remember times when we were children where our parents or other adults tried to force us to learn. We would make a mistake, either innocently or due to doing something we knew we shouldn’t do and they would scold us or even berate us and they would devise punishments to teach us about the consequences of our actions.

What did we learn?

We learned how to hide our mistakes, to pretend like they did not happen and we learned how to lie better to avoid that experience of being scolded, even to ourselves. We learned that when we make mistakes, our parents and other adults gets angry with us, that it is us who are wrong, that there is something wrong with us – not with the actions we took. Very seldom would parents or other adults take the time to actually support us to understand the course of actions that created the mistake in the first place and how to prevent them in the future.

Learning is something that happens on an internal level and no matter how much outside force is exerted, if the person is unwilling or unable to learn, they will not learn. They might be able to copy behaviors or become good at pretending that they’ve learned – but real learning can only happen if the person takes the information in and makes it a part of him or herself.

What does it mean to make information a part of ourselves?

When we make information a part of ourselves, we come to understand it on an intrinsic and internal level, where we integrate it as a part of who we are. We can only do that when we see a purpose with learning that information, when learning that information is relevant to us and the context we are in.

When information is being stuffed down our throats, often without reasonable explanation, how much do we actually learn?

How many of us remember even a fraction of what we learned in school or even in university? Do we not remember much more about the people, the relationships we formed than the knowledge we were supposed to integrate? Why is that?

“Traditional education focuses on teaching, not learning. It incorrectly assumes that for every ounce of teaching there is an ounce of learning by those who are taught. However, most of what we learn before, during, and after attending schools is learned without its being taught to us. A child learns such fundamental things as how to walk, talk, eat, dress, and so on without being taught these things. Adults learn most of what they use at work or at leisure while at work or leisure. Most of what is taught in classroom settings is forgotten, and much or what is remembered is irrelevant.” – Russell Ackoff

We force children to mimic us, to copy behaviors and to parrot the teacher or parent and we call that learning, but what would if we were to apply a different strategy where learning is seen as a self-directed process happening internally within the child, within which the parent or teacher more than anything stands as a facilitator?

Instead of trying to force children to learn information that is important to us, or that we believe to be relevant while they are off learning things because it matters to them (like how to navigate social hierarchies or getting skilled at playing computer games), we can decide to take on a different role in the child’s learning process.

In a real learning environment adults are no longer superior entities whose role it is to enforce authority, but who instead work with and assist the child to navigate, assess, sort and reflect on information, to discover what is meaningful to them.

Real learning requires more than the passive corporation of the child, student or participant – it requires a self-directed will to learn where the information has meaning and purpose to the one who learns it.

If we cannot force a child to learn, we also cannot take responsibility (or credit) for a child’s learning process. What we can do instead is to provide the child with an optimum environment and space for learning where information is available, where there is time and resources to delve into subjects on a deeper and more substantial level. We can assist them to make meaning of what they see, read and hear and help them to contextualize what they see, read and hear to their own lives and the life we collectively share.

There is good news and there is bad news in all of this.

The bad news is that our school systems and most parenting strategies are based on the idea that learning is something that can be forced, that children can (and even should) be intimidated into learning. This means that real learning most often happens outside of school and outside the iron grip of parenting and it means that children (and everyone else) aren’t learning a fraction of what they could be learning.

The good news is that realizing that learning cannot be forced actually gives children a point of power that we seldom realize (or admit) that they have.

This also means that we cannot decide what a child learns and more importantly, we have to admit that we never could.

It also means that there are no leaders or followers in these Hunger Games that we call schooling – and the question we must ask ourselves is whether we even need schools or teachers for that matter, if education was always in the hands of the individual, to decide and direct themselves to either learn or not?

Momentary Reflections on Education

Momentary Reflections on Education

I regularly publish momentary reflections to my Facebook wall; reflections that emerge in moments of inspiration and often in passing while visiting a school or during late night philosophizing. I will start sharing them here so as to gather a body of reflections aimed at sparking discussion and inspiration when it comes to education.

Here are a few of my reflections from 2015:

We each have our own Superpower

“I am certain that all plants have their own unique ‘medicinal’ or ‘extraordinary’ qualities. For some plants this quality is located in the root, for others it is in the flower or in the seed. With some plants you can only extract this ‘extraordinary’ quality by cooking the plant, whereas others must be ingested raw. Some only work on animals, others only on other plants. Some work best when they remain in the ground. That is where they best express their unique quality. It is the same with human beings. We all have an ‘extraordinary’ unique quality, our own ‘superpower’ if you will, but this can only be discovered and ‘extracted’ in the right environment where it is nurtured and supported to grow and develop. This is why education must be individualized and suited to each person’s unique talents and skills. Some learn faster, others slow. Some prefer physical work, others are great with numbers. With a one-size-fits-all school system, we miss out on these ‘superpowers’ and we prevent the world from becoming what it can become; a place that is best for all. We call it ‘equality’ but it is not. It is the idea that everyone should be the same. But we are not. Real equality is to see and nurture each person’s individual expression as equally valuable.”

Working with Passion

“If you are able to make your passion your source of income, go for it. If there’s a possibility of turning it into a source of income in the future, go for it. If you can’t, do it whenever you have time. However – there is also something to be said about the fact that most of us do work that does not allow our full potential, our passion to come into fruition. So let’s also contribute, in whatever way we can, each at our best, to changing the system so that we may create a world where work and income is not tied together – where work is about sharing, contributing, expressing your passion and your potential. This is why I support a Living Income Guaranteed by Equal Life Foundation”

School as a ‘House of Horrors’

“Japan has suicide rates 60 % higher than other countries and among these numbers, many are students. When our school systems are so mentally and physically straining due to the pressure and brutality it consists of, that young people would rather kill themselves than continue on studying – isn’t it about time we ask ourselves what the purpose with schooling really is? Is it such a daunting idea to consider that maybe, just maybe there is another way to educate our young, to not send them through the same ‘house of horrors’ that we’ve been through during our schooling years? Isn’t it possible that maybe they will turn out different from us – more adept at handling a world in peril? Are we really so scared of admitting that what the school system has taught us wasn’t all that fantastic and didn’t turn us into all that we could be?”

When a Phoenix Rises from the Ashes

“There is nothing I enjoy more than working with someone who is struggling and perhaps feeling a lack of confidence and wanting to give up, who then rises like a phoenix from the ashes and pulls through, bursting through the walls of limitation that they’ve set up for themselves, out on the other side, laughing as they surprise themselves in realizing that they were capable of doing so much more than they thought they were capable of.”

Harnessing Your Unique Potential

“There are so many people in this world that knows how to do something really well, either naturally or through practice; things that they can do for hours on end, that they enjoy perfecting simply because they enjoy the process of creating something and seeing it manifest, things that others rarely see or even know about. Often these things are looked down upon by others or by society at large; the farmer that has perfected his skills of making butter, a grandmother that knits, a young man that plays computer games as though he was conducting a symphony. What all of these people share is passion; the passion to create, to contribute, to share. If all of us got to contribute to this world with that we are most passionate about, if we supported one another in developing these passions and valued each other, imagine what an amazing world we could create; a world full of wonder, a world with perfectly crafted tools and ornaments, crafted from passion. That is a world I would like to live in. What is your passion? What passions have you considered to be ‘too small’, ‘too meaningless’ for others to value? What can you do to grow and develop it?”

It is not about ‘getting it right’

“The most supportive adults to a child are those who listen and embrace the child unconditionally. These are adults who facilitate a dynamic space for mutual learning rather than enforcing a static one. That is where learning can happen exponentially, because the focus is on learning itself, not on ‘getting it right’ or ‘NOT getting it wrong.’ The same can be said when it comes to self-change.”

The Imperative of Deschooling

“It is a travesty when we as parents mistake spite, ridicule and abuse for education. But is that not what the system has taught us in how we were raised ourselves? #Deschooling is an imperative process for all prospecting parents if we are serious about leaving a different world behind for our children than the one we came into. #guerrillateacher #UnschoolingTheSchoolSystem”

A Discussion about Education

“Today I talked to an older teacher who has decided to quit teaching all together. She is an amazing teacher but honestly admitted that she’s had enough. There are too many students in the classroom, too much bureaucracy – she can’t do the job she loves. At another school the new young teachers were nervous because they don’t know if they have a job next term. This is how it is every year. And the students? They have to get used to new teachers yet again, sometimes several times per term as well as being taught regularly by temps without teaching certificates. This is an unsustainable and unacceptable situation and I encourage more teachers to stand up and speak up – not just to ‘improve the situation’ but to start a discussion about what education and teaching is, and should be to be optimal and expansive for everyone involved. ”

Say Sorry

“We teach kids to ‘say sorry’, we scold them so that they will feel bad about what they have done and identify themselves as ‘being bad’ in situations where they make mistakes or deliberately act out in self-interest or harm others. We do not teach them to understand cause and effect, to understand the sequence of events (inside and out) that lead up to the point of making the mistake or doing something deliberate that caused harm to another. What do they learn from this? Certainly not how to take responsibility for themselves or their actions.”

The Voice Within

“Inside of all of us there is a voice of sorts, not a strange or alien voice but a voice of truth, of depth, of sound. You could say it is the sound of our being. This voice is what comes through when we stand up for our integrity in moments where we risk ridicule or rejection. It is the voice that comes through when we dare to be fully honest with ourselves and admit the things about ourselves that we’d preferred to keep hidden. At first it may be like a whisper, barely audible. We’re not even sure if it is there or if it is even a part of us. As we strengthen it, for example through writing and through connecting with our bodies, it gains more substance, more depth and we start being able to at first hear it more and recognize that it is there. Ultimately the sound of our being that at first seemed detached from us, is the voice of our being. It is not something magical, religious or even spiritual. It is simply what was Here all along, as the potential of who we are and can become underneath the static noise of the mind. And when we speak with the voice of our being, others are able to hear as well. There is a fundamental recognition of substance in hearing another speak from the depths of their being – whether still muffled or slightly out of tune; it is undeniably Here.”

Learning from A Child

“It is interesting because it is as though we expect so much more from children than what we do from ourselves. We want them to be respectful, honest, open, corporative, generous and empathic, as though that is the standard of the principles upon which this world functions. But we all know that this is not so. And by teaching children that it is so, we are feeding them a lie. We are teaching them to live on a lie and in an illusion. It is no wonder that the world is in the state it is in when this is the example that we set forth, ambiguous at best and at worst, outright deceptive.”

The Pattern Breaker

“We have an expression in Danish that, translated to English means “Pattern Breaker”. Pattern-breakers are people who, for example come from Illiterate families and who against all odds have been able to break through the glass ceiling of their social class and go to college. Studies have shown that in most pattern-breakers lives there has been one or two significant adults who in their childhood believed in them and their potential – who supported them to break out of their predetermined life-path of social inequality. Imagine if every child had the support of such an adult. Imagine the potential that goes unnoticed and that is wasted because we do not see the potential that is within every child. Imagine how different the world would be if we would all break the patterns of our past and start living our true potential. #unschoolingtheschoolsystem #Guerillateacher”

OECD, PISA and the New Discourse of Paranoia in our Education Systems. 108

OECD, PISA and the New Discourse of Paranoia in our Education Systems. 108

A discourse of paranoia is slowly but surely creeping into the core of our education systems and if you are a parent who has a child in school, you will know that education today is not what it was, even 10 or 20 years ago.

One of the main culprits of the discourse of paranoia, is the increase of comparative testing of children’s’ cognitive development, especially when it comes to reading, writing and math.

This increase in standardized testing is spearheaded by a private global interest organization called the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) who runs a program called PISA (Program For International Student Assessment).

The OECD has with its PISA program become one of the most influential organizations when it comes to setting the agenda for the future of education, and they are rapidly working towards standardizing the world’s school systems into one streamlined model with a singular aim of optimizing profits.

So why is a private economic interest organization having such a significant influence on school systems all over the world?

In mere 20 years the OECD has become one of the world’s leading forces with regards to affecting education policies and currently, more than 70 countries solicits OECD to test its students through international comparative tests and accordingly give ‘expert advice’ based on the results of these test on how each country can optimize its education system.

It is for example based on results from the PISA tests that Finland’s education system was glorified and appraised and it is because of their high rankings in PISA that South Korea and Singapore currently are seen as having some of the best education systems in the world.

In previous articles I have discussed standardized testing from a critical perspective when it comes to the effect it has on children on a psychological level as well as on teachers, but also in regards to it being symptomatic of a development towards global competition and market capitalism.

In this post I will therefore rather present a critical perspective on the subtle way in which an economic organization has penetrated the very fabric of our education systems in ubiquitous ways that seems to go unnoticed by most – and this includes parents and teachers but also local governments.

There are two ways in which OECD with PISA is slowly but surely monopolizing educational policy:

The first is the seemingly innocuous ways in which our education systems are changing through the ways standardized testing are affecting schools and curricular all over the world on a rather ubiquitous level.

The other is how OECD with PISA is acting as a global overseer of quality in education with which it penetrates the education system to further a specific economic and ideological agenda. Countries are literally basing educational reforms on directions from OECD, in some countries with what some would call devastating effects. More on this later.

Let’s start by taking a closer look at the first:

The fact of the matter is that standardized testing is not simply a ‘tool’ as the OECD presents it, which is used to optimize the quality of our education systems. It is in itself changing the way education is carried out, addressed and seen.

It is not a passive tool for measuring the quality of education at a school because it requires students active participation and at many schools the result of PISA and other tests are included as part of the students final grading. Teachers have to change their curricular to ‘teach to the test’ and local budgets are set based on competitive results between schools in the same area.

This is not simply adding an innocuous tool which only effect it is to optimize the equality of education – it is pervasive in nature and it is changing our education systems more rapidly than we realize.

This is seen no more than in how students experience having to take one standardized test after another. One of my 7th grade students for example experiences perpetual stress over having to do tests close to every week. She is a young bring woman with an immense drive and creative ambition. She wants to become a movie director and often sits at home writing long scripts. She is even working on a novel. One time she mentioned to me that they had been learning about the ancient Mesopotamia in a history class. To me that sounded like a fascinating subject and I asked her with excitement what she had learned. “I’m not really sure,” she said. “The teacher is moving so fast through the curriculum pushing us towards the test so it is difficult to keep up.”

This is coming from a bright and intelligent young woman who still has an immense curiosity and interest for learning. How much learning potential is not wasted when students are rushed through a curriculum only to get to a test at the end?

Another tragic example of the effects that standardized testing has on students can be seen on the American art teacher Mrs. Chang’s blog. She gave her 10 – 12th grade students the task to illustrate how they felt about taking tests. You can see the outcome of that project for yourself here.

In 1998, Noel Wilson, a scholar from the Flinders University of South Australia wrote a paper in the journal EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS titled Educational Standards and the Problem of Error on the devastating effects that standardized testing has on students that is as relevant today as it was 20 years ago. A summarized and updated version was added by someone called Duane Swacker in the comment section of this article which I also recommend reading in relation to a critical perspective on PISA.

In it, Wilson criticizes the entire notion of standardized testing in schools and asks:

“So what does a test measure in our world? It measures what the person with the power to pay for the test says it measures. And the person who sets the test will name the test what the person who pays for the test wants the test to be named.

So the mark [grade/test score] becomes part of the story about yourself and with sufficient repetitions becomes true: true because those who know, those in authority, say it is true; true because the society in which you live legitimates this authority; true because your cultural habitus makes it difficult for you to perceive, conceive and integrate those aspects of your experience that contradict the story; true because in acting out your story, which now includes the mark and its meaning, the social truth that created it is confirmed; true because if your mark is high you are consistently rewarded, so that your voice becomes a voice of authority in the power-knowledge discourses that reproduce the structure that helped to produce you; true because if your mark is low your voice becomes muted and confirms your lower position in the social hierarchy; true finally because that success or failure confirms that mark that implicitly predicted the now self-evident consequences. And so the circle is complete.”

Paraphrasing Wilson on the epistemological error of the notion of testing, Swacker writes:

“A quality cannot be quantified. Quantity is a sub-category of quality. It is illogical to judge/assess a whole category by only a part (sub-category) of the whole. The assessment is, by definition, lacking in the sense that “assessments are always of multidimensional qualities. To quantify them as one dimensional quantities (numbers or grades) is to perpetuate a fundamental logical error” (per Wilson). The teaching and learning process falls in the logical realm of aesthetics/qualities of human interactions. In attempting to quantify educational standards and standardized testing we are lacking much information about said interactions.

A major epistemological mistake is that we attach, with great importance, the “score” of the student, not only onto the student but also, by extension, the teacher, school and district. Any description of a testing event is only a description of an interaction, that of the student and the testing device at a given time and place.

The whole process harms many students as the social rewards for some are not available to others who “don’t make the grade (sic)” Should American public education have the function of sorting and separating students so that some may receive greater benefits than others, especially considering that the sorting and separating devices, educational standards and standardized testing, are so flawed not only in concept but in execution?”

It is indeed highly problematic that testing is seen as a benevolent tool to improve and optimize education, when it in fact appears to have an oppressing effect on students subjected to it.

The question is then whether this oppressing cookie-cutter effect of standardized testing is an innocuous but problematic side effect of a benevolent project regarding educational reforms or whether it is actually part of a much more sinister agenda to propagate a certain mindset in students graduating from schools around the world?

One of the most revered critiques of OCED and PISA is professor Yong Zhao, Presidential Chair and Director of the Institute for Global and Online Education in the College of Education, University of Oregon.

In the fourth part of his often-referenced four-piece series of articles titled “How Does PISA Put the World at Risk“ Zhao argues that the PISA program

”was designed to capitalize on the intense nationalistic concern for global competitiveness by inducing strong emotional responses from the unsuspecting public, gullible politicians, and sensation-seeking media. Virtually all PISA products, particularly its signature product—the league tables, are intended to show winners and losers, in not only educational policies and practices of the past, but more important, in capacity for global competition in the future.

While this approach has made PISA an extremely successful global enterprise, it has misled the world down a path of self-destruction, resulting in irrational policies and practices that are more likely to squander precious resources and opportunities than enhancing capacity for future prosperity.”

Zhao criticizes the PISA program for measuring the quality of education purely based on academic achievements, entirely leaving out and disregarding socioeconomic facts as well as the psychosocial well being of students. I have discussed this in a previous article where I mentioned how countries such as South Korea might score high on the PISA tests, but they also have some of the highest suicide rates amongst students – and the question is then whether that is an education system that is worth modeling?

In his closing statement of the article Zhao argues that:

“Until OECD-PISA became the only employer in the world with PISA scores as the only qualification, I would not suggest lawyers and doctors in the U.S., U.K., or any nation to replace your children’s activities in music, arts, sports, dancing, debates, and field trips with math tutoring. For the same reason, it is not time yet for schools in developed countries to close your swimming pools, burn your musical instruments, end museums visits, or fire your art teachers.”

In an 2014 article for the UK-based TES (Times Educational Supplement) newspaper titled “Is Pisa fundamentally flawed?” Educational reporter William Stewart outlined the scope of influence that the OECD has gotten over the past decade: ”Politicians worldwide, such as England’s education secretary Michael Gove, have based their case for sweeping, controversial reforms on the fact that their countries’ Pisa rankings have “plummeted”. Meanwhile, top-ranked success stories such as Finland have become international bywords for educational excellence, with other ambitious countries queuing up to see how they have managed it.”

Like Zhao, Stewart argues that measuring educational quality based on results from PISA is flawed. He argues that the tests are not based on common results but on different results from different students and that this creates highly fluctuating results from country to country and even within the same country, despite the OECD’s claim that PISA is one of the most accurately tools for measuring the quality of education. Stewart argues that it is absurd to expect that 50 countries with widely different cultures can be expected to fit into a one-size-fits-all measurement of educational quality and that the tests may therefore potentially be culturally biased.

So how has a private economic interest organization like OECD within the span of a decade managed to influence the course of national education policies on a global level?

In the past 20-30 years a discourse of global competition has become ubiquitously part of the conversation in media and in political sphere. Global competition for profit and resources (where knowledge is one of the most valuable assets a country can mine), is seen as a natural outflow of the processes of globalization and it is in that discourse that the OECD positions itself within and from which it gains its self-proclaimed relevance. PISA is presented as a tool that governments can (and must) use to optimize their educational policies to not fall back in the global competition.

The question is whether the OECD is doing that in fact or whether they, with PISA are adding gasoline to the fire to further their own agenda, specifically through generating panic and paranoia amongst member countries who feverishly fight tooth and nail to not be at the bottom of the ranks.

When Sweden, a country who otherwise prided itself of having one of the world’s best education systems, keep dropping in the PISA results year after year, it begs the question of whether PISA is doing more good than harm. Students are becoming increasingly more stressed and meanwhile politicians are acting as lapdogs for the OECD, following their every decree, to do whatever it takes to not fall back and risk being losers in this global game of thrones.

It seems as though the increased focus on global competition in our education systems has done nothing but decrease the actual quality of education, which is in itself an irony of massive proportions. It seems as though an undercurrent of paranoia based on an ethos of ‘survival of the fittest’ is governing our education systems and the question is: who stands to gain from a system that is set up to make students fail, despite getting an education?

I leave you with this analogy that may serve as a precautionary tale, to not let organizations like the OECD dictate the future of education based on paranoia.

In the classic 1954 book about survival and human nature, Lord of the flies, Jack (leader of the choir boys) convinces the other boys that there is a monster on the island and he soon spreads paranoia to gain power over the tribe. The boys vehemently start hunting the monster. Later, in a vision, another boy called Simon realizes that the monster is not real and that the boys have created the monster as a figment of their own imagination through the intoxication of fear. Jack and his followers kill Simon before they eventually burn down the entire island and destroy what little community was left.

Education is about learning how to navigate the world in the most effective way, to live together and to take care of the world and each other in the best way possible. Education is about learning from those who came before us, both from their experiences and examples, but also from their mistakes. Education is about developing and living one’s utmost potential so as to best contribute to a world that is best for all, and so for oneself. This is not the type of education that is promoted neither by the OECD, nor by our countries officials when they so desperately follow the OECD’s recommendations without questioning its political agenda.

If we are not interested in an education system designed by a private economic interest organization, whose goal it seems to be to increase paranoia to encourage competition – it is important that we come up with sound alternatives; alternatives such as the democratic (Sudbury) schools that are emerging all over the world, alternatives such as unschooling that questions the very notion of schooling and its capacity to true education our children. At the very least, we ought to question the starting-point with which we send our children to school: is it to teach them to compete and survive in a global version of Lord of the Flies or is it to become the best people they can possibly be, so that they may leave a world that is better than the one they came into?

Q and A With John Taylor Gatto

Q and A With John Taylor Gatto

John Taylor GattoJohn Taylor Gatto is one of the big points of inspiration for my work as a teacher and as an unschooling advocate. His Greatest history lesson completely changed the way that I saw the history of education.

I’ve written several blog-posts inspired by Gatto’s work. You can read one of them here.

Recently I asked John Taylor Gatto a question on his website. Here is his answer below.

“Hi John.

I am a teacher working in a country where homeschooling is illegal. Moreover, it is a country where parents have a lot of faith in the education system, so much so that they often prefer not (or do not dare) getting involved.

I therefore work to introduce unschooling principles in my teaching––and I have seen tremendous changes both with my students and myself. I would like to share what I have found with other teachers, because I have realized that changing how one teacher teaches can make a tremendous impact on many children, exactly as you have shown yourself.

Changing the education system––and ultimately deconstructing it requires both systemic and political initiatives which require a big group of people who have seen the detriment of the current education system. I am not interested in disengaging with the system, but am instead committed to changing it from within. It is however a fine line––because one has to basically “be in the system but not of the system”––to be able to participate with it, while dismantling it at the same time.

Do you have any perspectives on this and how to go about it, specifically when it comes to supporting fellow teachers, who might instinctively know that there is something wrong, but who are dumbed and numbed by the very same system they represent?

Sincerely, with much gratitude and a commitment to keep walking and sharing your words, as they become mine and may grow beyond me as they grew beyond you.

Anna B.”

JOHN’S RESPONSE:

“Dear Anna,

You speak wisdom: to change the system from within, you need to be in the system (not threatening the jobs or peace of mind of your co-workers who accept the system) but not of the system. It’s a fine line to walk, but I did just that for over 20 years, so let me share my method––there may be other ways, but this is what worked for me.

I began by analyzing what the school big shots, and my fellow teachers, FEARED about using the “unschooling principles” (as you call them), when as you and I know, they produce better results and happier, more interested, involved students, so everyone––teachers and school institutions, too––benefits by using them. Opposition doesn’t appear to make sense, and once I tried to look at it from my opponent’s point-of-view the answer was immediately clear.

What they feared was being made to look so bad they would be fired, disgraced, or humiliated in front of the kids. So I circumvented those fears by determining––in selecting productive products around which to build curriculum––how to avoid taking credit for my successes, to avoid doing the “star” turn of self-congratulation and to 1) give credit for notable accomplishments to others, usually, for political reasons, to school administrators, and 2) to invite other teachers, wholly or in part, to participate in our project learning.

Two examples:

For a period in the 1970s, New York parks were being overrun with an invasive plant species from overseas called Japanese knotweed, which the Parks Department could not control because it couldn’t afford to uproot it, and when uprooted what was to be done to the piles of useless, now dead vegetation, and how was the disturbed soil to be restored?

Our school district had a large Oriental population and a little research showed me that in Japan many recipes exist for using knotweed as a useful vegetable or base for sweet jelly, so our “problem ” was a by-product of our own ignorance; populations existed––even in our own neighborhood––for whom knotweed wasn’t a problem, but a food!

Our job was an engineering challenge: to establish willing recipients of the weed, then to uproot it and transport it to the eaters, which we did in Riverside Park along the Hudson River between 72nd Street and 79th Street in Manhattan, harvesting 300 30-gallon bags of the stuff over a one week period at a location a mere 10 minute walk from the school, doing a valuable service for the City and neighborhood while learning in a range of areas.

We recruited “wild man” Steve Brill, a wild foods expert, to teach us that in the same area a dozen more free, tasty, nutritious edibles grew in abundance (my favorite was wild scallions and gingko nuts, raising the socio-political question why knowledge of this free bounty wasn’t taught to everyone today, as it had been prior to WWI?

Answer: Commercial food merchants protested the unwanted competition through their political representatives, raising the further questions of what other areas had such unseen influence at work and how exactly did such pressure get organized and applied?

Then, our knotweed exercise inspired rhetorical work in public speaking––as student teams traveled to other schools in our district, to daycare centers, and senior facilities lecturing on the edible weeds among us.

Plus, they were writing manuals about preparing wild food with a few illustrated line drawings for distribution, learning to write press releases to cause commercial media to resonate their work in published form, creating references for applications, such as college scholarship applications––from one of these, even the New York Times mentioned our knotweed work, and printed one of our recipes.

Our biggest such project was to launch a weekend flea market in our schoolyard 30 years ago––one still open––that earns the school over 100,000 dollars a year from table fees, and provides the neighborhood with an inexpensive source of fresh vegetables from nearby farms, inexpensive basic clothing (socks, jeans, underwear, etc.), part-time work for students and chances to launch small businesses for school parents and their children.

If curious, it’s called “The I.S.44 Weekend Market” and it’s located between West 76th and West 77th streets on Columbus Avenue and was designed and established by my students as an academic project with the priceless political help of my wife, Janet MacAdam Gatto, who at the time was Treasurer of School District Three (Manhattan) Community school board, who worked tirelessly to turn back political opposition to this spectacular project which benefited the entire community and provided exciting raw text for English, math, science and social studies lessons.

On a once-barren concrete playground, it was transformed by hard work and astute imagination into a school bonanza––in which monies were made available to all teachers for private classroom projects, and for which we turned over all credit to school administrators and to the entire Parents Association.

I hope this helps answer your question on how to marry systemic and political initiatives while transforming institutional schooling with unschooling principles––aim to ADD VALUE to ALL: citizens, fellow teachers, bureaucrats, students and yourselves by re-orienting your own perspective profoundly––do that and you will discover that the many you help WILL NOT ALLOW mischief-makers to shut you down… OK?

Love and hugs,

John Taylor Gatto

P.S. Doing this transformed my own life. Check out Animus High School in Durango, Colorado, where the entire school in a Rocky Mountain setting is attended by brilliant project learners and internships for hundreds more ideas how to function this way. It is within anyone’s reach, takes no money, only courage, and results, as Anna B. implies, are substantial.”

Please support John and his wife Janet who are both currently suffering from the aftermath of having strokes by donating to them here.

Re-Educate yourself here:

The Ultimate History Lesson with John Taylor Gatto:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQiW_l848t8

PROPAGANDA | FULL ENGLISH VERSION (2012)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NMr2VrhmFI

The Century of the Self
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7EwXmxpExw

Psywar
http://metanoia-films.org/psywar/

The Trap
http://archive.org/details/AdamCurtis_TheTrap

The Power Principle
http://metanoia-films.org/the-power-principle/

Human Resources: Social Engineering in the 20th Century
http://metanoia-films.org/human-resources/

The Story of Your Enslavement
http://youtu.be/Xbp6umQT58A

Blind Spot
https://vimeo.com/30559203

Inequality for all documentary:
http://www.putlocker.to/watch-inequality-for-all-online-free-putlocker.html

The Four Horsemen:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fbvquHSPJU

On Advertisement and the end of the world:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8gM0Q58iP0

Third World America – Chris Hedges
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drZE65_134g

Dear Mothers, Let’s Debate Your Choices. 107

Dear Mothers, Let’s Debate Your Choices. 107

I am a teacher who writes about education and although this post is not about education, it does (as all things do) eventually come back to the question of education and in this case: parenting – and whether your choices as a parent, are indeed YOUR choices.

Debating your choices as a parent ought to be a source of empowerment, not disempowerment or disenfranchisement – and that is what I aim to show with this post.

Around this time a year the social media sphere fills up with posts for Mother’s Day. There is nothing strange about that, unless you consider the fact that it is a holiday that is (as most holidays are) created for purposes of profit, masked as a declaration of love and care of mothers.

A few weeks ago one of these posts caught my eye as I was going through the daily stream of information on my Facebook feed. Someone had posted an image with a text that said:

“Dear Strangers. My Choices as a Mother are not open for Debate. Love, Mothers Everywhere.”

As I was reading this statement, I started reflecting on what it means to make choices as a parent and why these choices are not exactly open for debate. I was planning on writing a post about how we, in our society tend to see ourselves as parents as the ‘owners’ of our children and how this approach to raising children is a fundamental cause of child abuse and neglect in this world. But as I continued to investigate the topic, a Pandora’s box of cognitive disinformation started unraveling before my eyes and I soon found myself digging into a ‘rabbit hole’ of global proportions.

Here is what I found:

After having read the statement, I decided to do a simple Google search to see if I could find any additional information. I wanted to see where the statement originated and who had originally  written the statement. As I copy/pasted the statement into the search engine I was surprised to see how many hits came up. One of them in caught my eye, particularly because of its opening statement:

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Walmart. All opinions are 100% mine.”

At the end of the blog post another reference is made, this time directly to a specific brand sold by Walmart:

“Thanks to Walmart brand Parent’s Choice ™ for sponsoring today’s discussion. Parent’s Choice Formulas are clinically proven to be as well tolerated as the national brands. They are an affordable brand of formula, and they offer a savings calculator on their site that shows how their prices compare to name-brand formula. “

This made me curious and I started wondering whether it was all part of a clever marketing scheme?

I decided to investigate Parent’s Choice to see if I could find a link between the brand and the initial statement I had seen on Facebook. I did not find any direct links, but instead I found something else entirely, something much darker and sinister than I could have ever imagined.

Parent’s Choice formula is a line of products, exclusively sold at Walmarts, targeting working class families with cheap diapers and baby formula as part of their range. The company claims to offer safe baby formula that is up to standards with the FDA. On a segment on their website on why breast feeding is the superior choice, Parent’s Choice ironically claim that 85 % of all women who uses baby formula. They write:

“Bottom line: we believe you should breastfeed and consult with your physician on the right choice for you. After all, it’s a parent’s choice.”

The question is: is it really?

Parent’s Choice is manufactured by a company called Wyeth pharmaceuticals, a company that previously was known as American Home and that under that name in 1997 was involved with a huge scandal involving diet pills called fen-phen, in which they spent billions of dollars settling with patients who claimed that the pills had damaged their hearts. (See this article from Medicinenet for specific details about this case.) After the scandal, American home changed their name to Wyeth pharmaceuticals.

The plot thickens

According to this article from the critical radio show Ring of Fire, hosted amongst others by Robert Kennedy Jr.,  Wyeth pharmaceuticals has been charged several times for amongst other things, illegal marketing of their products which they allegedly paid over 490 million dollars to settle. According to the article, Wyeth has also been accused of taking advantages of gaps in the FDA’s regulations so as to aggressively market medicine that hasn’t been subject to sufficient testing.

Another article from the non-profit research group The Population Research Institute describes how Wyeth in another case, were accused of paying doctors with frequent flyer miles to prescribe their products and settled a case paying more than 100.000 dollars.

In 2009 Wyeth merged with Pfizer and in 2012, the infant nutrition division of Pfizer were bought by Nestlé and renamed as Wyeth Nutrition. Based on yearly revenues, Nestlé is the world’s largest food manufacturer and one of the biggest manufacturers of infant nutrition products. As a subsidiary of Nestlé, Wyeth nutrition manufactures baby formula in Canlubang Lagun in the Philippines, although Parent’s Choice is according to their website manufactured in “FDA approved facilities” in the U.S.

Nestlé’s Aggressive Marketing of Synthetic Formula

According to this article on manufactured depopulation from Aware Zone, Nestlé began promoting synthetic formula as early as in the 1880’s. The company’s intent of saving babies who otherwise would be deprived of breast milk seemed sympathetic, but slowly but surely an entire business empire was built on the propaganda apparatus of marketing synthetic formula to women who were otherwise perfectly capable of feeding their babies from breast milk. Massive marketing campaigns were launched, primarily in third world countries convincing women that synthetic formula was a superior alternative to breast milk.

In the 1970’s, a global boycott was issued by several grassroots organizations against Nestlé for an aggressively targeting developing countries to purchase synthetic (primarily cow milk or soy based) baby formula.

According to this article from the website Multinational Monitors, and the papers to which it refers, companies such as Wyeth (a subsidiary of Nestlé) continues to aggressively and falsely market synthetic baby formula and specifically names the following case from the Philippines as an exemplary cautionary tale:

“This was never better demonstrated than in the Philippines, which enacted legislation to control the marketing of certain infant food products in 1986. Soon after the Philippine law was implemented, Nestle and Wyeth-Suaco, the Philippine subsidiary of AHP’s Wyeth, approached members of the Philippine government with a request to exempt their low- birth-weight formulas from the provisions of the law. This product would not be commercially available, but would be donated for those babies who often could not thrive on breastmilk alone, the companies asserted. They brought neonatologists along with them to back up the scientific basis of their request.

Shortly thereafter, the real reason for the companies’ intense lobbying was discovered. Wyeth-Suaco’s marketing director had sent letters to all retailers of Wyeth products announcing the availability of a new special low-birth-weight formula. The letter explained to retailers that the new formula would only be available as a free service to hospital nurseries and that it would boost their sales of standard infant formula because “mothers will surely buy S-26 Standard right after a short stay on LBW, hence, more S-26 sales!”

According to this documentary titled Formula for disaster created by UNICEF Companies and Nestlé in particular continues to aggressively market synthetic formula in the Philippines to this day.

What is most notable is that Nestlé have started targeting industrial countries such as the UK and the U.S and specifically its impoverished citizen groups with its marketing campaigns, suggesting that they are continuing to create new markets by imposing a false demand for synthetic formula through aggressive advertisements.

This is despite the fact that numerous studies (see for example this study from American Society of Microbiology referenced by science daily and this study done by Alison Stuebe that was published in Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2009) have shown that there are direct linkages between consumption of synthetic formula and certain diseases, behavioral issues and allergies and that breast milk is the better choice for most women in general.

So how does Nestlé (and thereby Parent’s Choice) do it?

In 2014 the grassroots organization International Baby Food Action Network published a report in 2014 titled Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules that clearly shows how companies such as Nestlé and its subsidiary Wyeth continues to break the code and aggressively target synthetic formula.

On their packaging (see an example here) Nestlé specifically brand their products as ’protecting’ babies, as giving them ’optimal nutrition’ while simultaneously disclosing the fact that breast milk is the preferred option in accordance with the World’s Health Organization’s International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes.

The following is a summary of the report published by the UK chapter of IBFAN

  • Competition for market share has increased. The profitability and the huge size of the market (USD 41 billion) have promoted a rush of acquisitions, with two global leaders, Nestlé and Danone, in fierce competition. Smaller companies also think they can get away with violating the Code with impunity. Dutch Friesland, Swiss Liptis and German HiPP all promote products without shame.

  • Social Media are now widely used as a marketing tool. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Google+, and free ‘apps’ downloaded by millions, are now effective communication channels to reach mothers with products and ‘advice’ offering endless opportunities for direct interaction with unsuspecting consumers. Bloggers are roped in to endorse products.

  • Hospitals are still the most effective entry point for companies. New mothers trust health professionals and tend to stick with brands used in hospitals. Company representatives, (‘medical reps’) are trained to persuade doctors to prescribe or recommend their products, by fair or foul means. In 2013, Danone’s Dumex was exposed for bribing 116 doctors and nurses in 85 medical institutions in just one Chinese city alone.

  • Targeting China.  Dozens of companies – large and small – are battling to corner the hugely lucrative Chinese formula market.  20 million babies are born each year and the market is projected to reach an annual turnover of USD 25 billion by 2017. In a sudden crackdown in 2013, six companies were fined USD 108 million for price fixing. Five of them are in this report:  Mead-Johnson, Abbott, Danone’s Dumex, Friesland and Fonterra.

  • Fortified toddler milks, also called ‘Growing-up Milks’ (GUMs) are used by many companies to cross-promote infant formulas and follow-up milks. GUMs have no nutritional advantage over traditional food but aggressive marketing has made them the best-performing market segment. Sales of GUMs rose by almost 17% in 2012, while follow-up formula sales grew by 12%. Asia is the largest market for these products that, although they are unnecessary, now account for one-third of the global milk formula market by value.

  • Sponsorship on the increase. Companies regularly target doctors, nurses, midwives and nutritionists with free air tickets to conferences in luxury venues, gifts, (such as expensive laptops), lucky draws and the like. The Report shows photo evidence from unexpected corners like UAE, Turkey and Iraq.

  • Sponsorship of professional associations also up. Companies continue to cuddle up to professional associations in developing countries as well as the West. As an example, at the 20th Congress of the International Union of Nutritional Science, in Spain, 2013, Abbott, Nestlé, Danone, Wyeth, Hero, Mead Johnson and Friesland all paid sponsorship fees ranging from EUR 40,000 to 75,000.

  • “Closer than ever to breastmilk”.  The marketing of formula invariably carries positive messages about breastfeeding, immediately followed by suggestions that the product is ‘almost’ as good. The current trend is to say that the particular formula is “inspired by breastmilk” or “closely mirrors breastmilk”. Wyeth, now owned by Nestle, launched a new product line called Illuma, a “human affinity formula”. Nestlé claims it will ensure that Wyeth meets the FTSE4Good criteria, but those criteria do not meet the minimum set out in the Code and resolutions.

  • Idealising the product with health and nutrition claims – continues to be a favourite strategy. None of the claims, like “the most advanced system of nutrients” or ingredients that protect babies from infection, improve eyesight and intelligence, stand up to scrutiny and all suggest that breastmilk and family foods are somehow lacking.

What are the consequences of the increased consumption of synthetic formula?

Synthetic formula is mostly made from cow’s milk or soy, both of which are ingredients that have been linked to allergies, chronic disease and GMO’s. According to this article by the New York times, Parent’s Choice organic formula for example contains maltodextrin, a synthetic sweetener, which has no nutritional value for anyone, let alone a small child. It is added as a form of carbohydrate, but its primary function is to make the formula taste good. It is no wonder that child obesity is skyrocketing and who knows what other consequences an entire generation (according to Parent’s Choice 85 % of all women) literally raised on synthetic formula has caused.

In conclusion, Walmart markets its synthetic baby formula, manufactured by Wyeth nutrition in the Philippines for Nestlé as ”Parent’s Choice”, as a product that is affordable for low-income households. So after having targeted the poorest third world countries, Nestlé is now going after the most impoverished in the developed countries, the people who are most vulnerable due to lack of education and social security.

Are your choices as a parent YOUR own?

It should be obvious by now that your choices as a mother are not your own. And therefore, your choices should be up for debate. The fact that a company creates a brand called “Parent’s Choice” in an economy where mothers have to leave their newborns to go work at places like Walmart for close to nothing and therefore are unable to breastfeed them, makes the irony complete.

If you happen to be someone who are using or who have used synthetic formula to feed your child, I am not saying this to offend you and I most certainly understand that not all mothers have the option to breastfeed.

Even the fact that a demand for synthetic formula has been created through mothers having to work while having nursing children is a product of this very system, and it doesn’t have to be this way.

I am also pretty sure that most of us have some Nestlé product in our cupboards; they do after all manufacture over 8000 global brands of food, beverages, medicine and cosmetic products.

I am not saying that the solution is to boycott these companies, because the entire idea of empowerment through ‘consumer democracy’ is (unfortunately) yet another example of sophisticated cognitive disinformation where we as slaves of the system are led to believe that we can free ourselves from the shackles of enslavement using the very same shackles to apparently ‘free ourselves’. Because despite the fact that Nestlé was boycotted massively in the 70’s and 80’s they continue to be one of the biggest and most profitable countries in the world, even going as far as privatizing water supply in several parts of the world.

The solution is as always education and here I am talking about real education, which is self-education, exactly as I have demonstrated here through my investigations in this post, which is something that anyone can do, through which one can empower oneself in getting to know and understand a subject in depth as well as disclose any veils of disinformation that may be presented as facts.

The point is that if we do not debate the choices we make (especially as parents) we are left vulnerable and isolated and unable to learn from one another, let alone our own mistakes and this is then what we’ll pass onto our children, thereby perpetuating the kind of disempowerment that we as consumers are exposed to by blindly trusting what companies tell us.

It is thus presumptuous to assume that we as parents instinctively know what is best for our children, especially in a world that is militaristically held in an iron grip by a marketing and propaganda apparatus of enormous proportions forcing its way into the most intimate spaces of our lives.

We must be able to admit that most of us, if we are honest with ourselves, have no idea what we are doing or what is best for us in this world. We are all products of the same system where only a handful knows what is actually going on and at every turn there are carefully orchestrated forms of predictive programming ‘guiding’ us to see and interact with the world and each other in a specific way, as we exist only to fulfill an agenda that is to the absolute detriment of all life on the planet, including our own.

It is imperative that we each start educating ourselves and start seeing through the veils of cognitive disinformation, because that is where real empowerment becomes possible. Then you can for example as a mother make a real educated decision about what is best for your baby and yourself.

But it is not about demanding a better system for women. It is not about demanding more information about what ingredients go into the food we feed our children. It is about creating a new foundation for ourselves on this planet, a foundation that is based on equality, on sustainability, on common sense and on absolute transparency.

If we are not willing to debate our choices as parents, we will remain enslaved to accept a system that does nothing but make us sick – and not only that, we will ensure that our children remain enslaved too and thus ultimately that nothing will change on the planet.

So dear mothers, let’s debate your choices. Do not be afraid of admitting that you do not know everything. Learn to see through the veil that is offered to you on a golden platter by the consumerist system. Learn to understand your own psychological trigger points – so that when you make decisions, you do so based on your own common sense and self-honesty and not within an illusion sold to you by a giant corporation, that you have a choice – when the fact is that you don’t. If you want what is best for your child, your choices should always be up for debate.

Changing the world happens through children growing up and seeing the world differently than we do today and thereby start acting differently. They cannot do that if we do not stand as living examples of change, if we do not encourage them to think critically and question their choices. And how can we do that if we are not even willing to question our own?

 

 

Who You Are is What You’ll Teach. 106

Who You Are is What You’ll Teach. 106

who you are is what you'll teach“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” – Henry Adams

A couple of weeks ago I walked into a teacher’s lounge where a teacher in his thirties was giving advice to one of the teaching apprentices, a young guy around the age of twenty.

They were talking about a sports class that the young teacher would be giving to a group of 4th graders later that day. The older teacher promptly said to him:

“You’ve got to put them in their place, you’ve got to show them that you are in control. They are like animals, they will do anything to disrupt the class, and you know how kids are, you can’t let that happen. You HAVE TO show them that you are in control – you are the teacher.”

The younger teacher mumbled in agreement and I wondered whether he did in fact agree or whether he was merely accommodating the older teacher’s point of view to not get in trouble.

Now – several dimensions can be addressed and discussed in terms of analyzing the driving forces behind the older teacher’s words, but I will here focus on one in particular:

He was clearly coming from a starting-point of suppressed fear, as though he saw the children as savages who had to be contained to not break out into mutiny.

I imagine that it is similar to the psychological states of the colonizing forces who invaded Africa or India or North America, who believed that their fear was validated by the uncivilized nature of the natives, while in fact the fear came from a deep suppressed understanding that what was being done in the process of colonization was unacceptable on a very existential level – and therefore retaliation was to be expected.

It is tragic to consider how a teacher can be seen as someone reenacting the process of colonization casting the students as barbaric savages and himself as the militant, religious and political force of invastion, but is that not exactly what is being done to our children in schools, through a process of civilizing the wild and unruly nature that is a child?

A couple of days after the incident with the teacher I was visiting a preschool that I teach at. When I came, all the kids were outside and some of them had gathered around the ashes of a bonfire. They were giggling as they painted themselves on their faces and bodies with the leftover coal from the fire. I laughed with them as they explored different characters that they could play out with their painted faces, necks and hands.

At some point, a preschool teacher had seen what they were doing and abruptly marched down with a strict expression on her face. She lifted her right index finger and said to them:

“What on earth are you doing? You KNOW that you are not supposed to do that, will you stop this IMMEDIATELY!”

I could tell by her expression that she wasn’t actually angry or enraged or even indignant. As she marched down to scold them, she assumed the role of the ‘strict teacher’ and is otherwise a woman I know to be lighthearted and warm. So she assumed what she believed to be the ‘appropriate’ response to the children doing something they are not supposed to do, but that I don’t even know if they knew they weren’t supposed to do, or that she within herself disagreed with.

They had not harmed anyone, or themselves. They had not damaged property or deliberately misbehaved. At worst, it would require the teacher to take some time to wash the coal off their faces.. They were simply exploring their own expressions, their senses and their surroundings. This was something that could have been utilized as a stepping-stone for learning about the chemical compounds of coal or a discussion about acting and taking on various masks to change one’s expression. It could have been used to talk about how we utilize resources from nature to create paint. Instead it became a lesson of shame and regret.

After she walked away the kids looked devastated and confused. They had this expression of ‘knowing’ that they had done something wrong, but only because she had told them they had done something wrong – while inside themselves they knew on a deeper level that they were merely exploring and expressing in innocence.

When children are being scolded for expressing themselves, they learn that self-expression is wrong. They start associating self-expressing with fear of being scolded, with shame and regret. They stop expressing themselves. They stop exploring. When these children become adults they may develop social anxieties or fear of speaking in public. They may develop depression or eating disorders or have low self-esteem because the belief that there is something wrong with the core of their being, lingers like a perpetual dark cloud.

It is a shame that teachers believe that they must assume a role of being strict authoritarians to be able to educate children and it is an even bigger shame that they by doing so, teachers become nothing but lackeys for a system that has no interest in supporting the development of creative, whole, expressive human beings.

What must be understood is that we cannot as adults inspire children to grow and develop into their utmost potential, if we are not inspired ourselves. We cannot expect them to be open and honest if we ourselves carry a shadow of secrecy within our own lives. If we want transparency and trust and respect, we have to give it, but even more so, we have to live it.

It is conceited to believe that simply because we are adults and have more experience being in this world, we will automatically stand as examples of what it means to be an effective human being in this world.

Being an effective teacher or a parent for that matter requires constant self-reflection and self-evaluation and we must dare to expose our own weaknesses and mistakes so that we may be able to learn from them, work through them and take responsibility for them, so as to truly stand as examples for our children and the students we teach.

This is not an easy task. It requires courage to admit that we are not perfect; that we do not have it all figured out, that there are sides to us that are counterproductive and small-minded. But until we start facing and dealing with those aspects of ourselves, we cannot expect children to be anything more than the examples we show them.

It is interesting because it is as though we expect so much more from children than what we do from ourselves. We want them to be respectful, honest, open, corporative, generous and empathic, as though that is the standard of the principles upon which this world functions. But we all know that this is not so. And by teaching children that it is so, we are feeding them a lie. We are teaching them to live on a lie and in an illusion. It is no wonder that the world is in the state it is in when this is the example that we set forth, ambiguous at best and at worst, outright deceptive.

As a teacher working with towards implementing progressive solutions in the education system, I am particularly interested in dismantling the traditional student/teacher dynamics. I refuse to stand as a proxy for the colonizing powers of adulthood and instead celebrate the wild nature of each child.

To do that, I must first do it for myself. I must become my own teacher, because it is only that which I have developed in myself as a clear and authentic expression that I will be able to share with others. As the saying goes: children do not do what we say, they do what we do whether we like it or not. If we want them to do differently, we have to start with ourselves.

Transformational Teaching Tools: Learning Through Gaming. 105

Transformational Teaching Tools: Learning Through Gaming. 105

“After school, kids are devouring new information, concepts, and skills every day, and, like it or not, they’re doing it controller in hand, plastered to the TV. The fact is, when kids play videogames they can experience a much more powerful form of learning than when they’re in the classroom. Learning isn’t about memorizing isolated facts. It’s about connecting and manipulating them. Doubt it? Just ask anyone who’s beaten Legend of Zelda or solved Morrowind.”

James Paul Gee, Professor of literary studies, Arizona State University

I don’t play computer games. I find them to be too loud and too intense. So I don’t play. As a child I did play some games from start to finish but it was never something that I got hooked on. I played Candy Crush for about three months until I got tired of it. Then I deleted it from my phone.

This does however not mean that I cannot understand or appreciate why others play computer games. In fact, I have spent a good amount of the past couple of months exploring the world of game development and gaming in general. I have watched some amazing films documenting the resilience and genius creativity of game developers such as the documentary Indie Game: The Movie and two TED talks, one titled Gaming to Re-Engage Boys in Learning and another that inspired me greatly with game developer Jane McGonigal titled Gaming can make a better world. I have furthermore talked at length with my students about their favorite games and it taught me a lot about gaming. For example: Minecraft is the number one game among my younger students and one of my first grade students recently explained to me why it is so popular.

He said: “Anna, do you know why Minecraft is so fantastic!?”

“No” I replied.

“Because everything is square!” He said.

So there you have it, the mystery of why kids love Minecraft: solved.

The way I see it, because computer games happens to be the number one interest of my students, I have an obligation to honor and explore that interest with them – to latch onto their journey through life and through that assist and support them in any way possible to grow and expand, even if that growth and expansion takes them far beyond my comfort zone or realm of knowledge.

So I am not writing this to advocate why gaming belongs in the education system. There has been written thousands of reports and papers and articles about that, including the previous post I wrote on the matter.

In this post I will focus on the point of how we as teachers and parents can promote an educational environment of self-directed learning, where we as adults stands as catalysts and facilitators rather than as someone who is blocking learning opportunities because they do not fit into our preconceived ideas about education. I will do that through sharing an example from my work with gaming in class.

Ever since I started working as a teacher, I have tried to find ways to engage my older students (ages 11-15) to no avail. I have come to realize that they in many cases have been in the school system for so long that the school system in many respects have managed to ‘lobotomize’ them to the point where they will either go with the motions of daily school life in a zombified state or they will assume a position of reluctance and defiant apathy towards anything that is presented to them by the school system. They are not there because they want to be but because they have to be. Learning is not something they do to expand their horizons but because it is expected of them.

It has been a challenge to find a way to make learning authentic for them, as I to them am seen as yet another adult who does not understand what they are going through or what their life is like, but who nonetheless tell them what they need to know and when and why they need to know it.

When I embarked on the journey of using gaming in my work as a teacher, I had no idea just how far I would be able to reach the students through opening myself up to their interests. I had no idea that they had so many resources, so much passion and lust for learning – and that is in itself a disturbing fact.

As I mentioned in the previous post, the initial lesson plan was developed my one of my colleagues and I found his idea to use gaming to be so inspirational that I immediately took it, ran with it and developed it further.

In the previous post I described the projects I did with the younger students where we worked on developing board games inspired by computer games. With the older students however (ages 11 – 15) we embarked on a journey where the students created their own fantasy computer games. They got the task of coming up with an idea to a computer game where they were to write out a script describing the game environment, the characters and the background story.

We had a lot of fun talking about computer games, game music and game development and the students would share with me what games they played and what they liked about them. We talked about how their parents did not like them playing as much and they would share how much they learn from playing the games. What was interesting was that even though we did not actually play any games in class (we did look at trailers from games), and even though the students primarily had to write – they were more engaged than ever.

We also started playing with the idea of having their games produced as real computer games. We talked about how long that would take as several of the students asked if we could do it for real. I explained to them that it most likely takes several years (with the proper training) to create a computer game.

Then I had an idea: what if we got a hold of a game developer who could review the students’ games?

I searched online and within a matter of days I found a game developer who was more than happy to participate, having been a gamer himself and understanding the value of gaming in education. We set up a date where he was going to come to speak to the students and I told them that I was going to share their games with him and that we was going to come and review them. Knowing that a real game developer would look at their work completely changed their production process.

What they created was amazing.

All the students were engaged in their games and a fifth grade student who normally does not do any homework (in any class) would send me his scripts and not only that; he would edit them two or three times and send me the updated versions without in any way being prompted to do so by me.

Another student, a seventh grader who suffers from a learning disability and because of that normally only write a few sentences, wrote an entire page. At the end of one of our lessons he said: “by the way, I did some drawings at home.”

With an inconspicuous look on his face, he pulled four drawings up from his backpack and handed them to me. What he had done floored me.

He had drawn four drawings that must have taken him hours to draw, one depicting the character from the game, one the environment, one of the logo for the game and a portrait of the character.

He had done exactly what the other students had done in writing, only through drawing. And I had no idea that he could draw.

We had our meeting with the game developer once all the students’ games were finished. It was a huge success. He talked about his work, how games are created, how many hours of script goes into each game, how he became a developer. He showed us games he had developed and gave us the ‘behind the scenes’ tour into the world of coding and programming, much of which was presented in a highly advanced technical language that I could barely understand. The students nodded as they sat and listened in complete focused silence for nearly two hours.

Afterwards, the fifth grade student who normally does not do homework, have continued on to developing his own game, using a professional coding platform.

The seventh grader’s (the one with the learning difficulty who normally does not have many successful experiences at school) grandparents created a WordPress profile for the sole purpose of leaving a comment to his game on our blog where all the games are published telling him how proud they are of him. His mother had sent an email to their entire family sharing his game.

Another seventh grader created such an amazing story, with such rich detail and reflection on the inner lives of the characters that I suggested to him to keep developing it and maybe make it into a story. I eventually told his parents who had no idea how good a writer he was and who are now trying to convince him to write a book.

All the amazing results that came from this project can be contributed to the fact that I worked with something the students were interested in, something that is a big part of their daily life and that normally is not given any value or supported by adults.

I provided a structure and an idea in which the students could unfold and explore their creativity but all the work was their own. When they had an idea, I ran with it. When they wanted to change something in the lesson plan. I ran with it.

I have been amazed and astounded to see aspects of the students emerge that I had no idea existed and it has made me keenly aware of how much we as teachers and parents are missing out on by not engaging with children on a real and authentic level, to actually get to know them and understand them and what their life is like, without fear or moral judgments about what they ‘should’ be doing or becoming.

One aspect of this project that I am particularly satisfied with is how the project had a direct correlation with the real world. This is something that I have long advocated and this project underlines that perfectly.

When a real game developer became involved in the project, the students took the project seriously, because they were being taken seriously as having real and valuable perspectives to share with the world. They got to see a man who had chosen a career path doing something that their parents would judge as being a waste of time. It made a real impact on them.

This is something that could be easily copied to other subjects or themes or projects where, if a class or student is working with food as a topic for example, a chef can be invited to cook with them or taste their recipes. Or if a class is working with democracy as a topic, they can work with changing things in their local environment or school that they are not satisfied with. They can experiment with various democratic methods such as writing petitions or letters to the newspaper or even direct social intervention and investigate which methods are most effective for change.

Not only does it establish a direct and very real connection between schools (as life-preparation facilities) and ‘real’ life, it also provides the students with a entrepreneurial aspect that is remarkably absent from most schools.

If we are serious about making this world into a better place, we ought to be equally serious about the interests of our children, to listen to what they have to say, to support them to grow and develop their utmost potential, which may just be incrementally different from what we would have imagined or preferred.

I have stopped seeing myself as a teacher who’s job it is to transfer knowledge and information into the minds of my students. Instead I see myself as a sparring partner, as someone who has experience in various fields and who can assist them to develop and materialize their visions and goals into substantial and valuable content.

It is a position of honor and great privilege and it is a responsibility that requires the utmost amount of humbleness and courage because it requires us as adults to take a step back and admit that we do not know everything there is to know about the world. We have to be willing to let the children educate us and so transform us so that we may be fortunate enough to stand next to them as they direct their own learning and explore their potential in life.

 

Education with Passion for a Digital Generation. 104

Education with Passion for a Digital Generation. 104

digital-generationTeachers all across the world are struggling to engage their students.

Standardized tests and  archaic curricular that must be rushed through in a matter of months, are filling up the classrooms.

At the same time, we see a development in our society towards an increased integration of technology into our children’s lives. While struggling to stay awake at school, most kids will gladly spend an entire night in front of the computer, playing games, surfing the web or chatting to friends on Skype.

The question that many parents and teachers ask in concern, is whether the investment in technology is compromising our children’s education. They will say that it is hard enough to motivate them as it is, without some screen distracting them and pulling them away from what matters. While that may be true, I am here to share a different perspective.

A couple of years ago, I made it my mission to teach in a way that was relevant to the students. I started experimenting with various topics and methods with the aim of unlocking the students interest of learning rather than sitting across from them, one zombie regurgitating information to another – just because that is the ‘normal’ way to do things.

I discovered that every single person in this world wants to do something that matters; something that is real and that has a real impact in the world. No one wants to spend years on end in artificial facilities doing simulations of real life while being told that their perspectives don’t matter – and this is exactly what schools do.

I also discovered that what students care about, is the real world around them, that which they hear about in the media or read about in the news. Above all, something that almost all my students had in common was a passion for modern technology, the Internet and computer games in particular.

I decided to embark on an adventure with my students, an adventure into ‘their’ world, the world of computer games.

I have never myself played a lot of computer games. It is simply not something that I’ve found particularly interesting. I do however have a passion for modern technology and all the opportunities that the Internet opens up. So I make it a point to stay up to date with the latest technological developments, gadgets, social media sites and various apps coming on the market. So on one hand, I embarked on a journey into the world of gaming simply because it was something I respected that my students were passionate about. On the other hand, it was made easier by the fact that I was already open to the current developments of modern technology.

I know that many adults are cautious towards the current developments and that many parents worry that their children are gaming too much and that they do not spend enough time outside playing or spend time with their physical friends (rather than the ones they meet in cyberspace). I also understand that there are some pitfalls and dangers about the Internet, such as kids having access to pornography, issues with privacy and cyber bullying.

However, it is also my perspective that the current development of modern technology is unstoppable and that if you as a parent prohibit your child from having access to a computer or the internet, they will simply find another way to get on – because being online has become an integrated part of what it means to be a child today.

Because the development of technology and digital media is like rushing river of rapid development, the best way to approach it is through embracing it by going downstream with the flow, rather than trying to fight it or slow it down, which is virtually impossible. It is something that like a force of nature has its own momentum.

Our Gaming Project

The students and I started the project with the younger students (ages 6-9) working on creating board games inspired by their favorite computer games. I laid out the foundation of the way we would be working with creating the games by saying that my goal was for this game to be so fun and challenging that they would want to play it with their friends. I shared with them how I had created board games as a child that weren’t a lot of fun because they weren’t very challenging.

So the first few lessons we spent creating a plan of how we were going to design the game. We talked about various ways that board games can be structured and how they don’t have to go from ‘start’ to ‘finish’ but can be circular, like labyrinths or have a completely new structure entirely.

I started asking the students about the computer games they play and I could see how genuinely pleased they were with being able to talk about their passion in a ‘school setting’. Most of the younger students have Minecraft as their favorite game so they would tell me all about it and what they liked about it and what elements from Minecraft they thought would be cool to incorporate in our board game.

Many of the students had lots of ideas that incorporated digital elements, where I had to show them how it unfortunately wasn’t transferrable to a physical board game. Instead we had to ‘translate’ the elements of the computer games into the board game in a way that could work effectively.

One group for example decided to create a game where, during the game it switches from day to night and at night the monsters come out, just like in Minecraft. We then had to figure out a way to incorporate the day-to-night element into our game and together came up with the idea of using an hour-glass that, when it runs out, the game switches from day to night.

Another student decided that in his game there should be four different ‘worlds’ or ‘games’, each based on its own computer game, so there was a ‘Minecraft world’ and an ‘Spiderman world’ and to go into each world you’d have to go through a portal.

Throughout the process of creating the games, the students would speak and write, for example to create cards to use in the game or through writing instructions for the game. These elements are all included in what is my actual task as a teacher, to teach them a language. We could have done the exact same project focusing on math elements or art – or even all of these in a multi-disciplinary project. The point is that throughout this project there has been absolutely no resistance or boredom coming up within the students.

I call it ‘sneaky learning’ when I am able to incorporate elements like grammar that otherwise would be perceived as ‘tedious’ and ‘boring’ and the students don’t even notice that they are learning grammar. They are doing it because it is an important part of the game. Like one student said: “If you don’t have instructions, you can’t understand how to play the game”. So obviously we had to create instructions, but it wasn’t a deliberate ‘language learning lesson’ and therefore working with the language came natural and with ease – because it had a purpose, because it was a tool to be used to support something that the student was passionate about, proud of and invested in.

Through this project, the students have created the most amazing and inventive board games. They have come up with ideas that I would have never thought of. Throughout it all, I have stood as a sounding board to assist them to manifest their vision and to make suggestions and share perspectives that may support them to consider details they hadn’t thought of before.

The result of doing this project is that students go home and write more cards by themselves without being prompted to by me as ‘homework’. One first grader (7 year old) even continued to work on the game while he was sick at home. Another student considerately went to the store and bought an hourglass with her pocket money – again, without being prompted to do so by me.

It is my perspective that all learning is supposed to be like this, no matter how old you are or what subject you are busy learning. This doesn’t mean that learning will always be thrilling or fun. When you are passionate about something, it sometimes requires some hard work or that you do some tedious task, but the difference is that the students have not resisted this aspect of learning in this project, because what mattered was their creation process and their vision of a final result. The more I have stepped back and humbled myself as an adult, the more the students have stepped forth and shown me their potential, their strength, their passion.

Based on the example from this project, taking the students passion as its natural point of departure ought to be a focal point of all education. Because we have all been educated in the same wretched school system, we have come to take it for granted. We have come to accept (because that’s what we’ve been taught) that learning is not fun, that it is forced upon us and something we must learn to force upon ourselves. Learning in schools happens through intimidation, competition and force and the question is how much is actually grasped at a foundational level within the students. I mean, how many of us remember anything we learned in school? What many will say is that they remember specific teachers who were passionate or fun or they will remember specific projects where they got to work independently or choose their own topics.

With the day and age that we live in, it just happens to be so that modern technology, digital media and the Internet is one of the biggest interests of kids today. It would be a shame to not embrace that momentum and let the stream take us on a journey together with the kids, a journey where we can be there with them and stand as support along the way. Because one thing is certain; modern technology is not going anywhere anytime soon. But our kids are going places, that’s for sure. The question is whether we are going to be stubborn and stay behind in fear of the unknown or whether we are going to go on this journey with them and see where the river of modern technology takes us. Because if we don’t, we are holding them back. We are dismissing and diminishing something that matters to them. We are trying to force them to learn in unnatural ways through intimidation and then we miss the opportunities where real learning could have taken place.

There is not a single human being on this planet who is not aware of how much easier it is to learn when it is something you have decided for yourself, when learning is something you want to do. You do not only learn more easily, but you also remember it better. When learning is self-directed and passionate, it integrates into you and becomes part of who you are as a real time expansion of your being. It is something that never leaves you. This is what learning is supposed to be like.

 

Unschooling The School System. 103

Unschooling The School System. 103

“A child does not have to be motivated to learn; in fact, learning cannot be stopped. A child will focus on the world around him and long to understand it. He will want to know why things are the way they are. He won’t have to be told to be curious; he will just be curious. He has no desire to be ignorant; rather he wants to know everything. “ – Valerie Fitzenreiter, in The Unprocessed Child: Living Without School

When I started working as a teacher, I made a decision that would come to shape my work and my life in ways I could not have imagined.

I decided that I would become the best teacher that I could possibly

In striving to become the best teacher I can possibly be, my focus is to provide children with the best possible education, to be a sparring partner who respects them and listens to them and who values their insights and unique expressions. I am constantly reevaluating my teaching principles and methods and I keep developing myself as a teacher through the direct feedback from the children. I strive to see life from their perspective and to be a champion on their behalf, however I am also acutely aware of the humbleness required from me as an adult to take a step back and see the potential for greatness in my students and let them develop their own voices and become champions of their own sovereignty.

Why I unschool in the school system

Throughout my work I have found it particularly challenging to motivate children, especially as they get older, to do homework and assignments. They would generally do it the night before deadline and in some cases, the parents would sit down and do it for them, just to have something to show – as though the entire purpose of their education was to get a ‘pass’ from the teacher or to make the teacher happy and not to actually learn and develop themselves.

So I have been looking for ways to engage students, to make the work authentic for them as something they would actually want to do and find purpose in. Through this process I have found that a distinct problem with formal schooling is that it is set up as a simulation process where children are taught ‘about life’ from abstract textbooks that doesn’t have anything to do with real life. The entire purpose of formal schooling is to weigh, measure and categorize students, to apparently prepare them for ‘real life’ – completely disregarding the fact that they’ve been a part of real life since the day they were born. Children  learn something about the world and about life every minute of every day, especially in those formative years where they integrate knowledge at a quantum level.

I have therefore been working towards making the subjects and projects that we do in our classes relevant to their real lives and to give the students assignments that does not just have the purpose of measuring them or proving themselves to me, but that would actually matter to them.

As I started to develop more of such projects I saw a distinct difference, especially with the younger students interest in learning, however with the older students and especially the teenagers, I was at my wits end. Nothing I did seem to spark an interest in them. They seemed distant and demotivated and saw me as yet another adult who wanted to put them into a simulated learning environment that had nothing to do with them or their real life. I struggled to get any form of authentic connection established with them.

Then about six months ago I discovered unschooling as an educational principle and strategy and since implementing unschooling principles into my work, it has completely transformed not only the way I teach, but also my relationship with the students.

I have taken an educational quantum leap that has opened doors and potential I had no idea existed.

Since I started working actively with unschooling I have come to realize that I have been ’intuitively unschooling’ all this time, and that I have basically been a proponent for unschooling my entire life – I simply wasn’t aware that there was a word for it.

So from a certain perspective it has not been that big of a leap to go from what I was already working with to now actively start unschooling. What has however supported me a lot has been to realize that what I naturally saw as common sense and that I struggled against because I thought I had to teach in a more formal way, had already been working for a lot of people for many years. So it has supported me to trust myself more and to throw myself more into progressive forms of education rather than deliberately holding myself back because I wasn’t sure if what I was doing was okay or not.

Results of introducing unschooling in the school system

When I started introducing unschooling into my classes, I was initially quite worried about how parents and other teachers would react and I can only say that the responses and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. I get emails and phone calls from parents saying that there children come home elated with big smiles on their faces and that they can’t wait to go to our classes.

The older sister of one of my 5th grade students recently told me that he never does homework and that he hates writing. She was utterly surprised to hear that not only did he do the assignments for our class, but he kept writing so much that I had to tell him to cut it back because it otherwise wouldn’t fit to the project we were doing. He even send me edited and corrected versions of his assignment several times – without me instructing him to – before it was submitted for final publication.

After I have started to change who I am as a teacher to be (even more) relaxed, more myself and less fearful of not getting results, entirely new dimensions have opened up in my relationships with the kids. They are more considerate and gentler. I suddenly get more hugs and invites to come home for dinner or hear them play piano. They have started to tell me about their life and the things they struggle with or are passionate about.

How I unschool in the school system

The first thing I did, as I actively let go of the fear of what parents and other teachers would think was to stop trying to control the lesson. If the children want to go, I let them go. If they want to do something else than what I’ve prepared, we do that. I don’t force them to do anything anymore. I might encourage them to push themselves, especially if I see that they are resistant or reluctant because of lack of confidence.

I listen to the students, I’m interested in what they have to say, and I am engaged with them, meaning: I am not preoccupied with getting results or accomplishing things. Instead I am here with them and let the moment naturally unfold, (while having somewhat of a plan of what we’re doing/where we’re going). But I am letting go of the ‘need’ to control the situation – which I’ve realized mostly came from fear.

Because I’m letting go of that fear and that need to control and make sure they get results, I can also be more present and listen more to their individual needs. So if someone doesn’t want to do something, I don’t make them. (Which I used to do reluctantly out of fear).

Instead I talk to them about it and make sure that they really don’t want to do it and find out why. Then we do something else, no big deal. If I see that they resist because its something they find difficult, I encourage them to push through – and they do.

An example of that is from a preschool I recently visited. A little girl aged 3 wanted me to draw her a drawing. She started whimpering and talking to me in a manipulative baby voice. Her body language changed and she started becoming emotional. I actually found the situation quite funny and looked within myself at how I could best direct it, what would be best for her and for me in the moment.

So then I calmly said to her: “Okay, but then you got to talk in your normal voice”. What she did next was very sweet and moving. She tried changing her voice back to her normal voice. She struggled at first because I’m not sure anyone has ever asked her to do this before. So she wasn’t used to directing herself to move out of the ‘cry baby personality’. But she definitely understood exactly what I meant. As she tried a couple of times and reverted back and tried again, I could see how her body language changed and she started straightening herself up. She knew exactly what she was doing. She tried a couple of times more and finally got it, back to her normal voice – and I drew the drawing, not because she manipulated me to by being emotional, but because she had asked in self-respect and I wanted to honor that.

I focus more on getting to know the students individual needs and do things that they want to do/that suit them and where they are at in their process of learning. This doesn’t change the effectiveness of my teaching, because they still learn what they need to learn, but it happens naturally without any force. Instead it comes more and more from their own interest to grow and learn. And fascinatingly enough, the work they have produced since we started working with unschooling principles have been lengthier and so much more substantial. Several students have told me that they have been working all night on some of the projects that we do and the most amazing drawings and writings have come out of that process, so much so that it has even surprised me to discover the abundance of potential within the students that I had no idea existed.

Contrary to what critics of unschooling may believe, I also don’t let the children do what ever they want at any cost. If they are too noisy and it is potentially disturbing for another class I ask them to tone it down. If I have a headache or if I am exhausted I explain it to them and ask that we do a more quiet activity. Because the relationships are becoming more equal, because they see that I respect their choices and their needs, they respect mine equally.

The basic principle of unschooling is therefore not to just let children do whatever they want at the expense of everyone else. It is about empowering children to be equals in a partnership where I stand as a point of support and guidance based on a principle of doing what is best for all.

The relationships are becoming more real and more equal which means that I am also allowing myself to learn from the kids and how they see the world. If more teachers would do this, we could compare notes and perhaps together we could steer towards a paradigm change when it comes to how we see and educate children.

Working as a teacher with progressive principles I’ve come to realize how important it is that there’s a real life purpose with what the students work with. Most of what is being taught in school is either abstract or simulated to resemble real life. The students know that and they know that what they do only matters as to measure their performance. Every person wants to contribute to society, wants to do something that matters. When children are encouraged to work with something that has an impact on real life, they give it their all.

“The reality is that the modern school is no silver bullet, but an extremely problematic institution which has proven highly resistant to fundamental reform. No system that discards millions of normal, healthy kids as failures – many of them extremely smart, by the way – will ever provide a lasting or universal solution to anything.” – Carol Black, filmmaker and educational activist

The potential is there that we, within the next fifty years will see a total transformation of the process of education and of educational environments – and that as a result, the world will be forever changed because of it. To manifest this potential, from vision to reality, we have to as adults push ourselves to go further than we’ve ever gone before, further than those who came before us, so that we can provide the future generations with a clean slate to learn and grow and explore from – a platform of learning that is unlimited and empowering in every way.

For more information I invite you to watch this recent interview I gave on the Living Income Guaranteed channel:

Links and more info on unschooling

Hacking The School System from Within. 102

Hacking The School System from Within. 102

“We don’t yet know, above all, what the world might be like if children were to grow up without being subjected to humiliation, if parents would respect them and take them seriously as people.” ~ Alice Miller

The past few months I have been working with introducing unschooling principles into my work as a teacher. As mentioned in a previous post, unschooling is an educational principle where all traditional schooling activities such as sitting in a class, doing homework and working with textbooks is taken out of a child’s educational process. Traditional schooling is replaced with self-directed and life learning principles where the child is trusted to pursue his or her interests and passion at their own pace. Instead of being educated by parents and teachers, the child relies on adults as sparring partners that stand as pillars of support.

So with unschooling being an educational principle where all traditional schooling is discontinued, how am I unschooling in the school system?

I know; it is paradoxical to talk about unschooling in the school system, especially when a basic premise of unschooling is to disengage with the school system all together. Some may say that it is misnomer to even use the term ‘unschooling’ for what I am doing since I am doing it within the confines of the school system and although I agree to a certain extent, I simply have not yet come up with a better term for what I do, and so I use the term unschooling because the basic principles of unschooling are what I am implementing into my teaching on a daily basis.

So now you may ask why am I implementing unschooling principles into the school system instead of disengaging with it all together like other unschooling advocates, especially considering what we know about the origin and design of the school system and the effects it has on children.

That is what I will discuss in this post.

The answer to the question is twofold: Firstly, I live in a country (Sweden) where it is entirely prohibited to homeschool (and thus unschool), where parents are fined and where children have taken into custody if they dare to oppose the legislation and educate their child at home. Therefore I have had no choice but to look for alternatives to unschooling outside the school system.

Secondly and more importantly; as a sociologist, children’s rights advocate and educational activist, I am interested in unschooling as a solution to the neglect and degradation imposed on children by the formal school system and my goal is to contribute to a paradigm change in the way we think about education and the way we as adults interact with children in general, with the aim of ultimately changing the education system in its entirety.

Recently, someone made a comment on a post I posted on Facebook saying that they had given up on the formal school system and had turned completely to the alternative education communities.

While I completely understand why someone would want to disengage with the formal school system and while I wholeheartedly would want for all children to be unschooled in a supportive environment, I also see the pertinent need for transformative voices within the walls of the confines of the school system.

As human beings, whether we like it or not, we live together on one planet within a world system that many of us would prefer not to have, but that we are also, through being part of the human race that created the system, directly and indirectly responsible for.

There is no ‘getting off the boat’ or the ‘sinking ship’ if you will in terms of simply calling ‘quits’ on the system and opt out of being a part of the system. Of course you can do it for a while. You may even do it for a lifetime, moving into an alternative community or building a cabin in the woods, but it doesn’t solve the problem. Maybe for you and your family it does, but because everyone else is still trapped in the same system and because of the consequences that system has on our ecosystems and interconnectedness on earth, in one way or another, it will affect you and yours. And even if it does not, I would say that we each have a responsibility for the home we all share, especially if we have opened our eyes to the atrocities and actually see solutions to the problems we are facing globally as well as locally.

This is not to say that parents who choose to homeschool or unschool their children are doing the wrong thing – in fact I commend those who are able to do so and I would certainly have wanted parents who respected my sovereignty to such an extent as a child. However, we also need activists, leaders, politicians and advocates who work towards changing the system from within.

Why it is important to hack the system from within

We all know that demanding change is futile; the system is not suddenly going to ‘come to its senses’ as it is a man made entity that has gained such a stronghold on our collective bodies and minds, that it holds the entire world population in an indefinite gridlock. Instigating violent revolutions is equally redundant because even when they are successful, the system recreates itself and eventually reverts back to its dysfunctional ways.

Money and organization is one of the primary factors why making change in the system can be so difficult and this is also one of the reasons why so many turn their back at the system in an attempt to disengage with it to be part of the solution rather than making matters worse. Adding the gross amount of cognitive disinformation flooding the public sphere with a toxic haze of sedation, it easily seems like an impossible to penetrate the iron wall of lunacy that this world system has become.

It is therefore imperative that we as citizens and grassroots activists start inserting ourselves into the ‘belly of the beast’ and start changing the system from within to literally hack it from the inside and this is exactly what I am doing through introducing unschooling into the school system.

In the next post I will go more into detail about how I unschool the school system in my daily work as a teacher and I will discuss how this is something all teachers and parents can do and actually make a profound difference in the education system.

It doesn’t cost any money. It doesn’t require an army of lawyers and academics and publicists. All it requires is one person who is willing to change themselves to make a difference in this world.

For more information I invite you to watch this recent interview I gave on the Living Income Guaranteed channel:

 

Radical Unschooling: Education Outside The Box. 101

Radical Unschooling: Education Outside The Box. 101

“Rules in the absence of principle are often found to be irrelevant by children. Principles lived fully make rules unnecessary.” —Karen Tucker

We are facing a time in history where breaking with the conventions of yesteryear is not only inevitable but in fact a necessity. Radical unschooling represents such a break with conventional thoughts, as it challenges everything we thought we knew about education and parenting.

Out with the old. In with the New.

The realization that we exist in an Orwellian system of control is slowly but surely making its way from the fringes of society to its mainstream arenas. The walls of segregation are thinning and the veil of wool that we have pulled over our eyes is slowly but surely starting to unravel.

We realized long ago that the revolution would not be televised. The time of paramilitary overthrows of totalitarian regimes is over. The grand idea of a global revolution has become archaic in a world where the powers of a system that should not be, has wormed itself into every fiber of our existence and has engulfed the world in a paralyzing toxic haze.

One by one, we are starting to realize, each in our own way, that to subvert the subjugating mechanisms of this system, we must to become creative, and as the Icelandic activist and member of the Pirate Party Birgitta Jónsdottir puts it: find ways to hack the system from within.

All over the world, people are finding ways to subvert the system of control, from guerilla gardening to co-op farming and alternative media outlets. This is done, not through vehemently fighting against the system and demanding that it change, but through understanding that, as corporate whistleblower Richard Grove puts it: “The system wasn’t broken, it was built this way.”

We must assist the system to collapse – and we do that through immersing ourselves into the system, through changing it from within.

Hacking the System from Within

The iron claw of the system reaches into even our most private and intimate spaces, but instead of looking upon that with apathy and trepidation, we can use this as an opportunity to start hacking the system virtually anywhere, in any place, in any area of our lives – and we can do that as individuals without necessarily having the support of large communities, vast financial resources or intricate knowledge about how to take down the overlords of the military-industrial complex.

Each one of us has skills and abilities or unique insights into sustainable solutions that can be used to defuse the firewalls of the system, from independent journalists that tirelessly work towards exposing the cognitive disinformation oozing from the mainstream media to high-school kids inventing affordable 3-D printers in their bedroom.

We can hack the system in our personal lives through recognizing the inner mechanisms installed through predictive programming, where our minds too are subject to the system of control, for example through the alluring promise of happiness and fulfillment offered to us by the advertisement industry. Once we understand the mechanisms and see them for what they are, once we admit to ourselves that we too fell for the magic trick, we can begin the process of restoring (or for the first time creating), our sanity.

We can hack the system in our relationships with other people, through agreeing upon principled ways of living, where we see that which is best for everyone, (including children and animals) as being of equal importance, thereby disrupting the patriarchal, authoritarian and speciesist narratives that for so long have governed and restricted our lives and our ability to co-exist peacefully with one another on this planet.

Education and upbringing is a hallmark example of the extent to which the system of control has saturated our lives, bodies and minds. We do not realize is how extensively our way of seeing the world and more importantly; how we see ourselves in it, is a direct result of our upbringing and education. As Ivan Illich, the author of “Deschooling Society” puts it: “School is the advertising agency which makes you believe that you need the society as it is.”

One of the most prominent examples of how it is possible to hack – and thereby take directive action to reprogram, the system in our day-to-day lives is through radical unschooling.

Radical Unschooling Paves the Way for a New Humanity

Unschooling is an educational philosophy, but even more than that, it is a form of direct political activism that aims at empowering the future generations through a total paradigm change – and it is all happening inside the home.

Educator John Holt coined the term ‘unschooling’ in the 1970’s. Holt believed that children did not need to punished or threatened into learning, that each child had a natural capacity and ability to learn. Unlike traditional homeschooling that aims at bringing the traditional school classroom and curriculum into the home, unschooling takes the approach of ‘learning through living’ where the child has no textbooks, no tests and no curriculum to follow, but instead can follow its own interests and passions, with the guidance and support of a parent.

Common – and for most provocative – examples of how different unschooling is from traditional schooling includes: no fixed bedtimes for children, no restrictions on food and no restrictions on media consumption. Unschooled children wake up and go to bed on their own accord. They have no chores, no homework, no textbooks to read and they learn in the way that is most comfortable and interesting to them. As such an unschooled child might spend weeks or months on end playing Minecraft or building with Legos, all supported and facilitated by their parents. Unschooled children are also not expected to learn how to read, write or learn math according to any specific time-frame or method and are often self-taught at that.

Radical unschooling takes unschooling a step further as it rejects any notion between educational and non-educational spaces. As protagonist Sandra Dodd says: “everything leads to everything.”[i] Radical unschooling is further more an approach to parenting and education where equality and respect become practical and tangible principles that can be transferred into the participants daily lives. The parent is no longer an authoritarian figure who’s role it is to modify behavior through punishment, but a partner and a facilitator who makes it possible for the child to explore and develop their unique natural learning abilities. Education is no longer about the child preparing itself to be functional in a dysfunctional society but about exploring life in a natural and expansive way. Radical unschooling thereby becomes not only a way to transform the notion of what a family is or how education happens but can even be utilized as a tool for self-transformation of who we are as parents and human beings in our relationships with one another.

By showing that a child that learns from home (and life in general) in its own pace without any restrictions, is just as equipped to step into society, perhaps even more so, than a traditionally schooled child, radical unschooling parents are challenging the very foundation of our education systems. It can however only work if the parent dares to step out of their preconditioned ideas about life and as such become a catalyst for change.

Radical unschooling provocatively questions the very foundation of our education systems and playfully shows us how it is possible to not only succeed by stepping out of the schooling industry, but also how tremendously limited we have become because of it. As John Holt says: “Trust Children. Nothing could be more simple, or more difficult. Difficult because to trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves, and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.”

Deschooling Detox

A specific element of radical unschooling thus has to do with a detoxification period that parents as well as child who have been in the school system, have to go through called ‘deschooling’. One of the key aspects of deschooling is that especially the parents have to go through a process of deconstructing and letting go of preconditioned fears and beliefs programmed into them through their own school years. This could for example be the parent thinking that “a child needs boundaries and routines” or that “punishment teaches the child that there are consequences in life.” (Author Charles Eisenstein has long been a protagonist for the process of deschooling and regularly hosts seminars on the subject. [ii] In his seminars he encourages participants to investigate the effects that schooling has had on them.)

Another aspect of the deschooling process is a period of ‘binging’ on things and activities that previously would have been seen as ‘sinful’ such as gorging on candy, computer-games, movies or staying up very late. According to many unschoolers this is a natural part of the process that will slowly but surely even itself out, where the child and adult will become more inclined to making decisions that are best for them as they get in contact with their authentic selves beyond the limitations of rules and restrictions.

Dangers of unschooling

Unschooling is often criticized as leaving children unprepared for stepping into society. Those critical of the philosophy fear that unschooled children are left unsupervised and unsocialized and that they will have trouble integrating in society, as they grow older. According to a survey[iii] done by professor Peter Grey Ph.D at Boston university for Psychology Today, unschooled children do not only go onto higher education such as college, but tends to do remarkably better than their traditionally schooled peers.

Unschoolers have claimed that one of the reasons why unschooled children do well in college and university is because they have been self-motivated to learn their entire life. Often they have discovered a passion for a specific area already in their early teens, so when they start college they are self-driven and purposefully directing their education. Prominent unschooled people who have gone on to being successful in the system includes filmmaker Astra Taylor, astronomer Lisa Harvey-Smith and professor of law at Duke university, Jedediah Purdy.

So perhaps the greatest danger of unschooling is how it questions everything we thought we knew about education and shows us that the traditional school system is not only failing at its basic task of educating the young, but that it was never meant to in the first place.

The greatest anarchistic experiment of our time?

Radical unschooling might very well be one of the greatest anarchistic and open source experiments of our time. As Sandra Dodd says: “I never knew how much damage school did, until I saw someone who hadn’t been”. It begs the pertinent question of what the world would look like if all children were supported to harness and explore their unique natural learning abilities? Radical unschooling might very well be a significant key to the transformation of the world system, exactly as it will be significant to transform the way we live with the earth, the way we conduct business, how we work together or the way we view and speak about gender. No stone can be left unturned when it comes to subverting the subjugating mechanisms that has become our accepted ways of co-existing.

Each area of our lives that we dare to look upon with brutal self-honesty and see for what it truly is, through the veil of conformity, and thus take responsibility for changing, will be a significant and imperative key to rewrite the codes that govern our lives. It will not happen overnight and it will not be a global revolution where the whole world will joyously join together in some grand awakening. Instead it will happen one individual at a time, on a one-on-one level, from within the very depths of the system, in the miniscule seemingly insignificant everyday moments of our lives.

Radical unschooling shows us how each of us can take the process of changing the world into our own hands by starting with ourselves. Radical unschooling is an example of the transformation that our societies (and minds) has to go through, for us to upcycle the toxic waste of the past and turn it into something of substantial and lasting value – not just for us, but for generations to come.

Sources

[i] http://sandradodd.com/unschool/radical

[ii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Avd1EgAHnD8

[iii] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201406/survey-grown-unschoolers-ii-going-college

http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/nature/Unschooling-The-Case-for-Setting-Your-Kids-Into-the-Wild.html

http://opensource.com/education/12/3/unschooling-open-source-way

http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/09/how-do-unschoolers-turn-out/

http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/10/harnessing-childrens-natural-ways-of-learning/

 

 

A Teacher’s Journey To Life, A Personal Review. 100

A Teacher’s Journey To Life, A Personal Review. 100

a teacher's journey to lifeIt is a new year and it is the 100th blog post on A Teacher’s Journey to Life!

So for this ‘anniversary’ I will share a reflection on what I have learned during the past 15 years working in the field of education. When I sat down to start writing this and reflected back on my work with education, it occurred to me that I’ve worked with education nearly half my life.

Before I started working with education I was a student myself and continued to be so for many years onwards as I progressed into higher forms of education.

I can therefore say that education has been a pivotal point in my life and one that is very close to my heart. I can’t stop thinking about and reflecting on education and how to improve the current school system. My heart breaks on a daily basis when I see children’s natural passion for learning being suffocated by an archaic system. It has therefore become a great passion for me, a calling if you will to stand up for the children in this world and in any way possible create a world for them where compassion, creativity and potential can thrive. Every day I humble myself as I realize that I still have so much more to learn and that is what this journey to life is all about.

But first, let me share where it all started:

I got my first job in the field of education when I was 17. It was an afterschool job at a local care center for elderly mentally challenged people. It was challenging to say the least, as it was my first real encounter with people on the margins of society, surviving only due to the constant care of professionals. There was the 6 feet tall 92-year-old man who would sit in the couch sleeping with a blanket over his head. He had been kicked in the head by a horse when he was 2 and had never developed beyond that age. I use to be amazed that he had survived all those years, considering that he had the mind of a 2-year-old. There was the lady with downs syndrome who would throw her knife and fork at me at meal time, not for any particular reason, but just because she could. There was another lady who I have thought a lot about during the past 15 years. She was deaf, mute and blind, which meant that her only contact with the world outside her was through physical touch. I would sit and hold her hand for hours just caressing it, wondering what it must be like being trapped inside yourself like that. I once read that blind people tend to have better hearing than seeing people and so I wondered if her sense of touch was heightened as well.

I decided to become a preschool teacher/social worker, with the tittle ‘pedagogue’ and become qualified to work with children in preschools, but also in afterschool programs, with drug addicts, at various forms of care facilities and with mentally challenged people.

Because I wasn’t entirely sure what group of people I wanted to work with, I made it my goal to try out all the various types of jobs that a pedagogue might have.

I first got a job as an assistant preschool teacher in a Ghetto where most of the residents were Kurds who had fled from prosecution in Turkey or the war in Iraq. I bonded with a young boy and I distinctly remember an older teacher instructing me to not get so close to the children. The boy had a name with a particular pronunciation in Kurdish that in Danish was translated into something that sounded silly. I decided to call him by his Kurdish pronunciation but the teacher insisted that he had to get used to being called by his Danish ‘name’.

I got my next job after I visited a pediatric oncology center in connection with some schoolwork I was doing. I signed up to become a personal assistant and for about a year I worked with a 7-month-old baby with leukemia. She had been born with leukemia, which is apparently very rare, and she would sleep close to 20 hours pr. Day. She had a big tube sticking out of her belly and her mother had been given a grant by the government to hire a personal assistant, as the child would otherwise require 24-hour care and there was no father in the picture. Interestingly enough, this child was very expressive and strong-willed. It was clear that she wanted to live. This taught me about the vulnerability embodied in a child, how fragile we as human beings can be and yet how strong a child is, even in the face of despair or pain and how the will to live is present even in the darkest moments.

I decided to go back to school to get a degree as a social worker/preschool teacher. At the time all I wanted to do was to protect children, give them some solace in a harsh and brutal world, so I planned on becoming a social worker working with abused children or troubled teens. I wanted to be the kind of adult that touches a child’s heart and shows it that all is not lost in the world, because I had met few of such adults in my life and the ones I did meet, made a lasting impression and a tremendous difference in my life.

During my training to become a social worker I had to take three different practical internships at three different types of facilities; one for younger children, one for older children and one for social work/special cases to gain experience and also decide which type of work I wanted to do after I graduated.

My first internship was at an afterschool program for older children. I remember going there with all the intent in the world to make a difference and when I left three months later I was disillusioned to say the least about my ‘chosen profession’ and calling. The afterschool program was located in a poor, working class community and many of the children came from broken or abusive families. Several times I encountered children that were abused, whose parents were drinking and every time I tried talking to the teachers about it, they shrugged, brushed it off saying that there wasn’t much we could do about it.

I quickly realized that there was a distinct problem in the group of colleagues I was working with. I had looked forward to learning from older teachers, but every time I met them in the teacher’s lounge they would gossip about other teachers or complain about the boss. See the boss was quite new there, he came from outside the school and for some reason the older teachers didn’t like him, or perhaps they didn’t like the fact that one of them hadn’t been promoted. So by the end of my stay there was a full on mutiny going on where several teachers constantly tried to threaten and undermine the boss, essentially to get him to quit. When I left I started wondering if I wanted to be a teacher after all, especially if this was the kind of work environment I was going to enter into.

My next internship was at a shelter for battered women. Again I entered into the job with the hopes that this time I would find my calling and be able to make a real difference. Contrary to the work at the afterschool program, the social workers and teachers that worked at the shelter were professional and sober. It was a fascinating world to enter into but also very tragic. Most of the women had children with them and most had been exposed to domestic violence at the hands of their children’s fathers. Nearly all the women were in a constant state of inner turmoil and many went straight back into the arms of the men that had beaten and raped them, children in hand. This taught me a lot about the complexity of the human mind and how difficult it can be to support someone who is so brainwashed that they feel safer with their abuser than without.

I got the primary responsibility of being the caseworker for a young woman with two children. She was only a couple of years younger than me. The youngest child, a small girl around the age of 1 was so under stimulated that she could barely keep eye contact, let alone sit or talk. The mother was in such a survival mode and turmoil that she never touched the children, never hugged them or caressed them, but most would yell, all the while changing their diapers and feeding them milk from a bottle. The older son had already started showing signs of violence as he would throw tantrums and bite and hit. He had witnessed the abuse first hand. He was two years old. Eventually the woman moved out and moved back in with her boyfriend, the domestic abuser. It was what most of the women did, and it made me realize and reflect upon how stubborn our minds are and how it takes much more than good Samaritans to support someone to change their perspective on life.

At the center there was a stark sense of disconnection between the women who lived on the center and the women who worked there. The women living on the center seemed to be suspicious towards the women working there, seeing themselves as ‘lowlifes’ and the women working there as these ‘posh’, ‘upper class’ women who would never understand them or their situation. It made me realize how ineffective it was that the workers would sit in their office all day, almost like they were holding court, rather than being out in the ‘common areas’ with the women and children. It made the environment sterile and institutionalized and I couldn’t see how it would help the women to break out of their abusive patterns. So I made it a priority to spend time with them, to cook, to play with their children. Eventually they started sharing stories with me, they cried, they opened up. I didn’t do much more than simply being with them and listening to them. Here I learned about what it means to place yourself in the shoes of another person and unconditionally and how important it is that, to support someone you can’t be in a position of superiority or distance. This obviously doesn’t mean that one can’t also be professional – but simply that one can stand equal with someone and listen to them as an equal, even within being a professional.

My last and final internship was at a preschool in a posh suburb. It was an experimental preschool where most of the parents were in some creative field or another. There was a movie director, a photographer and an actor to name a few. The preschool had a completely different structure and a different set of principles than I had ever experienced in any other school before. First of all, there was no ‘teachers lounge’ for the teachers, which I remember, came as a shock to me initially. The leader of the preschool was a charismatic and passionate man who, when I asked about it, stated “If we would need to take a break from the children, then we would be doing something wrong.”

See, in most preschools and other childcare facilities, the teachers will experience and indirectly express a constant need to get away from the children. The noise levels are almost unbearable, the workday is long and hard and most of the day is spent doing boring activities that somehow are considered ‘educational’ but that the teachers are for all intents and purposes detached from. What I realized, through reflecting back on my years in preschools is that the adults will go into the ‘teachers lounge’ to ‘escape’, to be ‘themselves’ – thus implying and indicating that they can’t be that while they’re with the children. Often when you see teachers at a preschool, they will be standing away from the children drinking coffee and talking about ‘adult stuff’. Very seldom will you see them engaging in play or immersing themselves genuinely in activities with the children.

At this particular preschool however, they had implemented the principle that the preschool should be enjoyable for all participants, including the teachers. One of the principles was to respect and honor the children’s need to play. Instead of having certain activities at certain times, the teachers would rather be available to assist the children to start activities. Instead of a fixed mealtime, they had organized a small ‘café’’ in the center of the preschool with a kitchen surrounded by small groups of tables and chairs. Here the children could come and have lunch whenever they wanted, with whomever they wanted, and if one of them accidently had eaten all their food by midmorning, an adult would be on stand-by in the kitchen to make them a sandwich or something.

This meant that the children didn’t have to break up their play or whatever they were working on to go and eat and it also meant that they were supported to learn to identify and express when they were hungry. Another principle employed by the preschool was to let the children go outside whenever they wanted to. At most preschools here in Sweden there are scheduled (read: forced) times during the day where both adults and children have to be outside. I can’t count the times I’ve seen crying children and freezing to the bone adults standing outside in rain and snow with a miserable look on their faces.

What I found remarkably different about this preschool was that many of the children actually wanted to go out. And when the noise levels got to loud or if they started playing soccer indoors, we would gently encourage them to take their activities outside. The children at this preschool learned to dress themselves fare earlier than I’ve seen in any other school. It gave them a great sense of independence to be able to choose when to eat or when to go out and I remember being amazed the first time I saw a three-year-old gear up to go out in the winter cold all by himself. From time to time we would spot a little one through the window without socks on or with the wrong shoe on each would and would go assist them, but to a great extent they would be entirely self-reliant.

The final principle that I learned from working at this preschool, that had a significant impact on me, was the principle of not yelling at the children and so in affect of that teaching the children to not get into fights. I learned that it was entirely possible to work with children without having to constantly shout and yell. I remember how embarrassed I was and how disillusioned I felt, because until then all I had learned was that it was necessary and normal to shout and scream at children.

Whenever there was a fight between two children we would go and sit down next to them with one on either side of us. We would ask them to explain what had happened – but more importantly we would ask them how they could solve their problems. So if for instance two children had been fighting over one toy, they might come up with the solution of sharing the toy or playing with it together – and so learn how to co-exist in a peaceful and supportive way with one another.

What I learned more than anything from working at this school was that things don’t have to be the way they’ve always been just because that’s how they’ve always been. I learned how important it is that at least one person at a school has the drive, passion and dedication to move the school forward and be innovative in coming up with the best possible solutions for everyone.

At this point I had finished my degree in childcare/social work and I had decided to never ever again work in preschools or any other childcare facility for that matter. I had realized that there was something wrong with the entire system and that the changes required to be implemented, had to happen at a structural level. So a while later I decided to enroll in graduate studies to pursue a Master in Educational Sociology.

After getting my degree I was more passionate about education than ever, and especially the point of changing things on a structural level, both for teachers and for children – based on what I had seen in my years of working in the field of education. Not knowing exactly where to go from there, I accepted the opportunity to start working as a teacher, which is the job I’ve had now for nearly three years.

Through these past three years I’ve learned more about education than in all my years of studying education from afar – because I now have a voice, a voice that is able to verbalize, reflect on and put into writing the things I see on a daily basis. I’ve come to adore, admire and respect the children I work with and I no longer resist the teaching-environment, because I understand the circumstances with which it has come to be the way it is. That does however in no way mean that I accept it’s foundation or what it does to children – and I am fiercly committed to exposing and changing that.

There is no doubt within me that the education system has to change if we are to turn this sinking ship we call the earth, around. Education is the foundation of everything and we are all a product and result of it. Throughout my years working in and studying education I have learned that there are so many seemingly small things we could do that would produce tremendous changes, if only we would change our focus from prioritizing that which cost the least amount of money to actually focus on creating a sustainable future for ourselves, if only we would put ourselves in the shoes of our children, our students and see life from their perspective and actually listen to them and hear what they have to say. This is what I am dedicating myself and my life to. This is why I am here. This is my journey to life.

Thank you.

Are You Supporting Your Child To Reach Their Full Potential? 99

Are You Supporting Your Child To Reach Their Full Potential? 99

supporting your child to reach their full potentialThe other day while getting my hair cut, I struck a conversation with the hairdresser who has two children of her on. We talked about how difficult it is for parents to know whether they’ve sent their child to a good school or not. I could see a subtle look of concern in her eyes glancing back at me from the mirror when I shared with her how different the schools are and how the child might be taught something in one school in grade 1 that in another school is only being taught in grade 6 or maybe not ever.

She said what most parents say when asked about the quality of their child’s school: “Well, it seems good.”

Like most parents she has little to no idea what her children is being taught in school, because school-life and home-life has been inexorably separated and severed from one another. Teachers and parents barely have time to meet or to talk and when they do, it is only to make sure that everything is going according to schedule when it comes to the development of the child’s cognitive and social abilities.

Let me tell you a little bit about my work:

I go to over 20 different schools every week. In some preschools, the teachers hug the children each morning when their parents drop them of. They make sure to have a personal and individual conversation with each and every child and this is not a show they put on for the parents, because they do it whether the parents are there or not. It makes it a safe place to come to school, even for someone as young as 3 or 4. These preschools (and schools in general) are often private, small in size and/or run by a cooperative of parents. The state- and municipality-run schools are usually bigger in size and have a constant influx of teachers.

Unfortunately most parents don’t get to chose which schools to send their children to and even if they do it’s difficult to know whether the school is good or not. Often you only find out when it’s too late.

I teach students individually or in groups of three. Through teaching this way I have discovered that each child has its own entirely unique and individual learning requirements. No child is in the exact same place in its development process; some benefit from more structured and calm environments. Others learn best when they can take initiatives and push themselves. Some are good at math but bad at reading. Each one has their entirely own unique needs for an educational environment that will support them to grow and develop their potential.

The way the school system is build doesn’t even come close to supporting each child’s unique requirement for learning, not even by a long shot. When 30 students are stuffed into a small room with 1 teacher and are expected to rush through a standardized curriculum, at best we call it a ‘one size fits all’ system – at worst it is a system that prohibits each individual child from reaching his or her full potential.

The fact of the matter is that children can learn, all children have the potential to expand and grow and even defeat the odds that comes with poverty or learning disabilities.

So on one hand the education system is random. It’s like a lottery where, if you’re lucky enough your child might just end up in a school where there are teachers who teach because it is their passion and where there are resources. On the other hand, the education system is also tragically predictable in most cases, where it is almost guaranteed that your child will not be able to reach its full potential.

As parents it is our responsibility to be the main caretakers and guardians for our children in those first vulnerable years – but when it comes to education most of us have completely handed over the reigns to the education system, turning a blind eye to the fact that it is in no way equipped at providing our children with the education they require to truly reach their full potential, academically as well a personally.

It is time that we as parents start daring to see what is actually going on in the world of education today – and that because no one cares about our children as much as we do, it is our responsibility to make sure they get the education that will foster and nurture their full potential to develop.

Whether that means getting involved with the school board or setting up impromptu lessons around the dinner table or investing in sound educational materials for our children, we have to stop relying on the hope that the problems we see in schools today will sort themselves out.

If you don’t have the skills or resources to teach your children, if you don’t know what’s actually going on in school, if helping your child with their homework is daunting or something you resist doing – then start there. Start by taking one step, just one step towards ensuring that your child won’t just become another number in the statistics used by corporations and governments to serve some obscure and delusional agenda leading our world into even more dire straits than what they’re already in. The change starts with you, because without you, your child won’t stand a chance, and your child is the future of tomorrow.

If you start today, you will give your child a head start to face tomorrow and it will be a gift that will last a lifetime, with the potential to change, not only your child’s life, but also the world as we know it.

If you are ready to get involved in a political and economic change of paradigms and thereby also a change of our education systems, I invite you to investigate the Equal Life Foundation’s proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income System. This proposal suggests a groundbreaking change in political paradigms that doesn’t ‘take sides’ but instead presents a completely new approach to solving the problems we are currently facing in this world.

 

Domesticating the Natural Child. 98

Domesticating the Natural Child. 98

domesticated childWhen children are demonized, they are often described as feral. But feral is what children should be: it means released from captivity or domestication.” – George Monbiot.

From the moment a child is born, it is expected to assimilate to the culture and society surrounding it, to make its norms and traditions its own. It is a war with the goal to break down the child until it surrenders its natural instincts and accepts its domestication.

This process is unnatural and not without bloodshed. Screaming, conflicts and violence ensues when the child tries to fight tooth and nail to express itself in a way that comes natural to it and not succumb to the unnatural assimilation process. It almost never works. And when it does, the child is labeled with one of the increasingly pervasive diagnoses that we hide behind to not have to take responsibility for our creation; the invention of a society and a culture that breaks down life before it had even had a chance to grow. We call it ADD, ADHD, hyperactive disorder, child depression or simply: ‘bad seeds’. The child innocently asks: “But why?” The parents response? “Because that’s just the way it is. Get with the program.”

Let me give you an example: We expect children to sit down, sit still and stay put and only be active in their minds exercising abstract cognition. We think: “Well what’s the problem? I love sitting still, I can sit and work a whole day without getting fidgety so surely a child should be able to do the same!”

We say that “the child is acting out” or “it is misbehaving” or “the child doesn’t follow the instructions.” But have we really considered what it is like for a child to have to sit still all day? Have we considered that we too are the result of this brutal process where our natural expression has been broken down and suppressed until nothing was left but a docile thinking-machine that can’t even feel, let alone consider itself as a living, breathing physical organism?

A couple of days ago I read an article where veteran teacher, Alex Wiggins describe what she realized after following two students around for an entire day. She would do the work they did, sit with them during class and basically experience everything that a student goes through on a daily basis.

What she found was heartbreaking and alarming to say the least:

“In every class for four long blocks, the expectation was for us to come in, take our seats, and sit down for the duration of the time. By the end of the day, I could not stop yawning and I was desperate to move or stretch. I couldn’t believe how alert my host student was, because it took a lot of conscious effort for me not to get up and start doing jumping jacks in the middle of Science just to keep my mind and body from slipping into oblivion after so many hours of sitting passively…”

“High school students are sitting passively and listening during approximately 90 percent of their classes.”

“In eight periods of high school classes, my host students rarely spoke. Sometimes it was because the teacher was lecturing; sometimes it was because another student was presenting; sometimes it was because another student was called to the board to solve a difficult equation; and sometimes it was because the period was spent taking a test.”

“It was not just the sitting that was draining but that so much of the day was spent absorbing information but not often grappling with it.”

“I asked my tenth-grade host, Cindy, if she felt like she made important contributions to class or if, when she was absent, the class missed out on the benefit of her knowledge or contributions, and she laughed and said no.”

“…it made me realize how little autonomy students have, how little of their learning they are directing or choosing. I felt especially bad about opportunities I had missed in the past in this regard…”

You feel a little bit like a nuisance all day long.”

“I lost count of how many times we were told be quiet and pay attention. It’s normal to do so – teachers have a set amount of time and we need to use it wisely. But in shadowing, throughout the day, you start to feel sorry for the students who are told over and over again to pay attention because you understand part of what they are reacting to is sitting and listening all day. It’s really hard to do, and not something we ask adults to do day in and out. Think back to a multi-day conference or long PD day you had and remember that feeling by the end of the day – that need to just disconnect, break free, go for a run, chat with a friend, or surf the web and catch up on emails. That is how students often feel in our classes, not because we are boring per se but because they have been sitting and listening most of the day already. They have had enough.”

“In addition, there was a good deal of sarcasm and snark directed at students and I recognized, uncomfortably, how much I myself have engaged in this kind of communication…Of course it feels ridiculous to have to explain the same thing five times, but suddenly, when I was the one taking the tests, I was stressed. I was anxious. I had questions. And if the person teaching answered those questions by rolling their eyes at me, I would never want to ask another question again. I feel a great deal more empathy for students after shadowing, and I realize that sarcasm, impatience, and annoyance are a way of creating a barrier between me and them. They do not help learning“.

Teachers are stressed; the educational environment is artificial and ironically not designed to optimize learning. There are too many children in one class and while all children has specific individual needs, they’re expected to follow (and the teacher must teach according to) a standardized ‘one-size-fits-all’ lesson plan. It is no wonder that most of us leave school asking ourselves if we ever really learned anything.

In my work as a teacher I also come across children that ‘act out’ and that can’t sit still, and I do get frustrated. But what I refuse to do is to blame the children – and if I do it anyway in the silence of my own mind, I make sure that I investigate how I can stop blaming the child and instead look for solutions through which I can change the situation.

I had a class where the students were continuously goofing around and laughing. As it kept happening and it made it difficult for me to teach, I became more and more frustrated. I tried talking to the kids about it, explaining to them how it was difficult to teach when they were goofing around all the time. I even agreed with them that they could have a portion of the lesson to goof around if they promised to pay attention the rest of the time. Nothing seemed to work. So I decided to take another look at the situation and see if there were dimensions missing that I hadn’t considered.

I then began looking at how I could solve the point and to my surprise I realized that it was me who was being too restrictive because I had an idea about how the lessons were supposed to go. I realized that within my need to control the lesson and how it played out, there was actually a fear in terms of my own role as a teacher, what the children are ‘supposed to learn’ and a fear of how others would see me as a teacher if I was not following ‘the norm’.

I realized that I too am a product of the exact same school system that perpetuates an unnatural learning environment, not optimized for learning but for producing docile and complacent individuals.

I decided to let go of my control. I decided to let the children do what they do and see if I instead can join with them and support them. So I did and it was very interesting. I laughed with them, I goofed with them. I allowed myself to relax.

What I started to realize is that the students primarily need interactive exercises that are not just about reading and writing while they sit still. They need to feel, touch and hear. They need to use their hands, be creative and create a connection between themselves on a physical level and whatever it is they are learning about.

Because as we’ve seen, learning as it is constructed now, is based on the premise that the child must disconnect from its physical body and literally ‘plug out’ or go into a vegetative state, while the mind is supposed to be the only active tool that the child use. By doing that, we are cutting the child off from its life force, from its creativity, its passion and as a result: from itself. THAT is why they are so passive, why they don’t participate, why they don’t feel an ownership for what they learn; because essentially, it has nothing to do with them. Their bodies and minds belongs to the school, to society.

The whole purpose of going to school is to assimilate children just enough for them to be functional members of society who will work and consume in an endless cycle like little cogs in a wheel.

In previous blogs, I’ve discussed how important it is for children that whatever they learn is connected to the real world, that it has meaning for them so that school doesn’t just become a mock or simulated version of reality that is entirely disconnected from their own lives. What I hadn’t considered was that one of the ways that education must be real and connected to the child, is through the physical.

So I realized that I had to connect the lesson material and the topics, the words and the grammar to physical activities. So I started to incorporate that into my lessons, where the children would switch between reading , writing and doing physical exercises or otherwise interact/be creative. To my surprise. I was able to teach them a lot easier. They were not disrupting or disturbing and they would happily join in. It was also a lot more fun for me as a teacher and even I learned a lot.

So what all this has taught me, is to focus more on checking where the students are, especially if they’re disrupting – because there might be something that I’m not seeing where they need and require a different type of learning environment, especially focusing more on being physical and less on sitting still. Overall I’ve discovered that anything interactive is much more enjoyable for them, and even here they can still learn all the things they need to learn – but it can be in a fun and creative way. I learned that when I allow myself to let go of control, lean back and observe, I actually see a lot more and can see solutions that I hadn’t considered before because I was too locked in an idea about how I wanted things to be.

We domesticate children to exist in a world that is anything but civilized, but that is in fact barbaric and savage and we tell them that what is inside them as their natural expression is ‘too wild’, ‘too savage’, that it must be contained, controlled and cannot be let out into the open, because: “What if everyone did that?”

Well… what if they did?

It is not the children that has to change, that has to behave, sit up, sit straight and shut up. It is us. We have to dare to think out of the box, hell; live out of the box – and realize that we’ve become the box and to change it, we have to change ourselves..

Supporting the creation and nurturing of self-aware and self-responsible child is imperative for us to change the current course our world is on. Because it is through the domestication of children where we disconnect them from being alert, awake and present in their physical bodies, that we create those zombie-like placated human beings that do not contribute anything of value to our world but perpetuating the cycle of working and consuming.

For example: Students only learn about the world; the names of the countries, cities and continents as abstract knowledge that they just have to learn to survive without fully understanding why. They are disconnected from seeing themselves as part of the world, as existing in an interdependent and interconnected world. They are unable to place themselves in the shoes of another with compassion because they have never learned to even be firmly grounded in their own shoes. Instead they exist in an artificial tension field between virtual reality and their own minds. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Education could be so much more if we would only admit to ourselves that the society we are preparing our children for, is NOT the most optimized, is not how the world should be. (Obviously because the situation is what it is, we also can’t just entice them to rebel and become oppositional because that doesn’t work either.) But we can show them both sides of the coin.

We can provide them with a holistic perspective that works with a three-dimensional and tangible reality, instead of focusing exclusively on a one-dimensional simulation. We can stand by them and stand with them as they go through the education system, to not allow their life force and expression to be squashed, but to find creative ways to work with the system in the system and slowly but surely prepare the road before us of taking the leap into a different way of co-existing.

Just imagine the adults who would come out of such an education system and the potential they would have to create substantial change in this world.

If you are ready to get involved in a political and economic change of paradigms and thereby also a change of our education systems, I invite you to investigate the Equal Life Foundation’s proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income System. This proposal suggests a groundbreaking change in political paradigms that doesn’t ‘take sides’ but instead presents a completely new approach to solving the problems we are currently facing in this world.

Relevant articles and materials in relation to the subject of domestication of the natural child:

http://missnightmutters.com/2014/11/dear-parent-about-that-kid.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/10/24/teacher-spends-two-days-as-a-student-and-is-shocked-at-what-she-learned/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/03/critical-exposure-school-to-prison-pipeline_n_6094376.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular&ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000010

http://www.edutopia.org/new-teacher-burnout-retention

Re-Educate yourself here:

A couple of months ago I was part of the panel on a Live Google Hangout about the Common Core standards initiative. I definitely recommend watching it.

The Ultimate History Lesson with John Taylor Gatto:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQiW_l848t8

PROPAGANDA | FULL ENGLISH VERSION (2012)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NMr2VrhmFI

The Century of the Self
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7EwXmxpExw

Psywar
http://metanoia-films.org/psywar/

The Trap
http://archive.org/details/AdamCurtis_TheTrap

The Power Principle
http://metanoia-films.org/the-power-principle/

Human Resources: Social Engineering in the 20th Century
http://metanoia-films.org/human-resources/

The Story of Your Enslavement
http://youtu.be/Xbp6umQT58A

Blind Spot
https://vimeo.com/30559203

Inequality for all documentary:
http://www.putlocker.to/watch-inequality-for-all-online-free-putlocker.html

The Four Horsemen:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fbvquHSPJU

On Advertisement and the end of the world:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8gM0Q58iP0

Third World America – Chris Hedges
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drZE65_134g

More articles about parenting and education in a Guaranteed Living Income System:

http://livingincomeforall.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/parents-need-a-living-income-now/

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/category/parenting/

http://economistjourneytolife.blogspot.com/2014/01/day-259-living-income-guaranteed-and.html

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/the-self-perpetuating-cycle-of-homelessness-and-living-income-guaranteed/

Watch the hangout about Education for a New World in Order: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlj5wGCRnSU

 

Refugee Children as Casualities in the Global War for Profit. 97

Refugee Children as Casualities in the Global War for Profit. 97

I work as a native language teacher and my colleagues and I teach children who come from over 100 different countries. Some come from severely war-torn countries such as Palestine, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Others come from countries with various degrees of poverty, starvation and civil unrest, such as countries in the African region, South America and parts of Asia.

All across the world, families migrate from countries with dangerous and poor conditions to countries with higher living standards and stable infrastructures.

My colleagues often talk about the struggles the children (and parents) experience when immigrating to Sweden. Many of the children have nightmares from their experiences with war in their homeland; they talk about the dangerous and arduous journey they’ve taken before arriving in Sweden. Sometimes they’ve had to undergo terrible struggles involving fleeing from country to country or having to spend months and years in destitute refugee camps in desolate parts of the world.

Many children come with little to no school background, but even those who have gone to school have trouble using their experience and knowledge because when they migrate to a new country, they have to start over with the most basic language skills. In an extreme way, its like a reset button where nothing that existed before migrating to the new country is is valuable or relevant. That is also why so many immigrants desperately try to cling onto a little bit of their past lives, their culture and customs. Integration of immigrants in a new country’s culture is a complex and long process and many immigrants will have experienced having lived in a country for more than 20 years and still feeling like an outsider or being seen as an outsider by the native population. Immigration is therefore also not the one-size-fits-all solution to the global problems faced by so many countries, but I will discuss that in a moment.

Sweden is unique in that it is a country that has first language education for children on its state budget. What this means is that all children, all the way from kindergarten to high school, whose parents come from a different country have the opportunity to receive a weekly lesson in their first language and some even receive additional tutoring if they’re struggling to cope with the lessons taught in Swedish. So if a child is for example from Somalia and is having trouble in the Swedish-speaking chemistry classes, a Somalia teacher can come to the school and assist them specifically with chemistry or other subjects that they struggle with.

Sometimes the children come directly from war-torn Syria or other countries and are siphoned straight into the Swedish school system without having even the most basic language skills. Other times children even come unaccompanied by adults and the municipality the child arrive into initiates an apparatus of support with interpreters, accommodation and school.

Teachers who teach Swedish as a second language often represent the children’s first encounter with the Swedish school system and the ones I have talked to unanimously express how happy and excited the children are when they come to school. One teacher shared with me how the children who immigrate to Sweden have an entirely different drive and passion for going to school than most Swedish children; they are grateful. More than anyone, they know what it is like to go to bed scared and hungry and more than anyone, they know that life is not something to be taken for granted. If only adults knew the same. All over the world children go to bed beaten, starved, petrified that they might not see another day.

When my colleagues receive children from Syria that cannot sleep at night because they have nightmares about burning bodies, nightmares that comes from real events their little eyes should have never been witness to, we stand face to face with the consequences of the world we have created. But there is little we as teachers can do, besides doing everything in our power to provide those children with an education that ensures that they can grow up and make a real difference in the world. And that is after all quite a lot.

No child (or any person) should have to flee their home country due to famine, war or lack of resources or infrastructure, but because of the world we have created for ourselves on this planet, people are forced to migrate around the globe to seek for better lives for themselves and their children.

Immigrants in receiving countries are often looked at as a pest, a form of human infestation. More and more countries in Europe but also the US and Australia are becoming increasingly hostile towards immigrants and refugees and all along no one talks about the elephant in the room; the fact that these same countries contributed to and largely are responsible for creating the current situation.

Countries such as Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Mexico, Burma and Sudan where people are fleeing from, are not isolated from the rest of the world; it is all interconnected and economic interests in one country sets of a spiral of events in another, a fact that is largely ignored by the citizens of the countries that benefit from the riches.

We are happy as long as we can buy cheap clothes and purchase cheap oil while blissfully ignoring the chain of events that brought those cheap products into our lives. But when we come face to face with the people whose lives were destroyed so that ours could be safe and prosperous we ought to take a good long hard look in the mirror and ask ourselves whether it is worth it.

Whether we like it or not, the world is joined at the hip, however disjointed it it may be. We can’t escape each other and we can’t escape the mess that we’ve made for ourselves on this planet, and no matter how high we build fences to barricade ourselves from the hungry mob, we cannot escape the fact that this world exists as one interconnected system.

I am grateful that I get to meet people from countries such as Somalia, Syria, Palestine, Iraq and Iran on a daily basis, that I get to ask them questions, stare them in the eyes and shake their hands and see and feel that they are real people, real living human beings with skills and qualities and expressions that are unique and irreplaceable. Because otherwise it is easy to start looking at people at a distance and see them as numbers at best, and at worst, as nothing more than parasites.

I am continuously humbled by the resilience of my colleagues from war-torn countries; that they are able to go to work and teach children and I am humbled by the respect and perseverance that my Swedish colleagues put into receiving children from around the world, to not be invasive or dogmatic or normative, but to gently assist them to acclimatize to a new life, a life in a country that they would have preferred not to be in, but that they are grateful to be welcomed into nonetheless. Let’s not make them regret it.

For the sake of our children, because they are all our children – we ought to seriously consider choosing a different path than the one we are on at the moment, because it brings nothing but more death and destruction.

When we at the Equal Life Foundation talk about a Right to Life for all people, these are not just empty words that we speak in one instance, while in the next callously contribute to the death and destruction of thousands through our indirect actions. We are actually proposing a solution, an innovative way to solve the problem, by making small but significant adjustments in our political and economic systems. Each country will be able to implement this for themselves in a way that suits their particular needs, but through it we will also be able to help and assist each other on a global level, so that no one has to flee from war or famine or escape a life destined to be lived in poverty and squalor.

Imagine being a parent and having to send your child alone on a dangerous journey to a country halfway around the world, because you know that this is the best opportunity they have to survive. Imagine being a child having seen nothing but death, destruction and famine since the day you were born, having to flee across the world and coming to a country where you don’t understand the language only to be looked upon with fear and disdain. No one should have to experience that, ever. That is why my vote goes to a Living Income Guaranteed System and for the sake of all children, I hope yours does too.

If you are ready to get involved in a political and economic change of paradigms and thereby also a change of our education systems, I invite you to investigate the Equal Life Foundation’s proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income System. This proposal suggests a groundbreaking change in political paradigms that doesn’t ‘take sides’ but instead presents a completely new approach to solving the problems we are currently facing in this world.

Re-Educate yourself here:

A couple of months ago I was part of the panel on a Live Google Hangout about the Common Core standards initiative. I definitely recommend watching it.

The Ultimate History Lesson with John Taylor Gatto:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQiW_l848t8

PROPAGANDA | FULL ENGLISH VERSION (2012)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NMr2VrhmFI

The Century of the Self
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7EwXmxpExw

Psywar
http://metanoia-films.org/psywar/

The Trap
http://archive.org/details/AdamCurtis_TheTrap

The Power Principle
http://metanoia-films.org/the-power-principle/

Human Resources: Social Engineering in the 20th Century
http://metanoia-films.org/human-resources/

The Story of Your Enslavement
http://youtu.be/Xbp6umQT58A

Blind Spot
https://vimeo.com/30559203

Inequality for all documentary:
http://www.putlocker.to/watch-inequality-for-all-online-free-putlocker.html

The Four Horsemen:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fbvquHSPJU

On Advertisement and the end of the world:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8gM0Q58iP0

Third World America – Chris Hedges
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drZE65_134g

More articles about parenting and education in a Guaranteed Living Income System:

http://livingincomeforall.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/parents-need-a-living-income-now/

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/category/parenting/

http://economistjourneytolife.blogspot.com/2014/01/day-259-living-income-guaranteed-and.html

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/the-self-perpetuating-cycle-of-homelessness-and-living-income-guaranteed/

Watch the hangout about Education for a New World in Order: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlj5wGCRnSU

 

The Future of Education and the School of Life. 96

The Future of Education and the School of Life. 96

the potential of educationIn the previous post we did a thought experiment where we placed ourselves in the shoes of a child in today’s Western school system. I am sure many can relate to the experiences described and agree that the current school system is not optimal.

In this post we are therefore going to do a different thought experiment. We are going to imagine what it would be like to go to school in a potential future education system, an education system that honors and prioritizes the life and well being of our children, an educational system that doesn’t aim solely at producing future consumers to keep the wheels of corporate capitalism spinning, but on nurturing compassionate and independent individuals to live and become their full potential and become responsible members of society as a whole.

When politicians and scholars discuss educational reforms, the bottom line comes down how much money is allocated in the local and national budgets to optimize the education system. And as other parts of the economy are prioritized, the education system is often left with severe cutbacks, low wages for teachers and poor physical conditions.

However – in this thought experiment we’re going to take this point out of the equation. We’re doing this for the following reasons:

First of all, studies have shown that long term investments in quality education is far more profitable in the long-run than short-term cutbacks often resulting in increasing drop-out rates and educational inequality. Therefore, it is not valid to discuss budgets that are in no way acceptable when it comes to establishing an optimized education system as though it is a given condition when looking at educational reforms.

Secondly, within the proposal of a Living Income Guaranteed system we are proposing a fundamental restructuring of our economic systems, where supporting that which is best for ALL citizens is a primary principle and aim. What this means is that if we can all agree that education is so important that budgets shouldn’t determine how good our schools are, then budgets isn’t the first point that should be discussed when it comes to education, but in fact the last. The last meaning, we look at what would be optimal when it comes to creating an education system that is best for all and THEN we look at what is possible in terms of allocating resources; not the other way around. An example of how this makes it possible to finance an education system that in the short-term might be more ‘expensive’ than the one we have today (yet more profitable in the long run), could for example be through we as citizens deciding that an ample budget for our education systems is more important than an astronomical budget used to arm military forces. This is however not the only way that a Living Income Guaranteed system will make it possible to restructure a country’s economy, as several proposals have been made to for example nationalize resources and increase value added tax, so if this is something you are interested, you can read more about the proposals for financing a Living Income Guaranteed System.

Furthermore, one of the fundamental pillars of the proposal of a Living Income Guaranteed System especially in relation to a restructuring of our education systems, has to do with the fact that everyone who doesn’t work will be able to receive a Living Income, a ‘citizen’s wage’ if you will and where those who do work will earn at least double what a living income provides, through placing the minimum wage at the double of the living income and that parents are given courses and support on how to educate their children independently if they so wish.

So to sum up the fundamental change of our education systems that a Living Income System provides in relation to education is that:

  • In a Living Income system, parents will have the opportunity to spend more time with, and even be the primary educators of their children. They will in other words have more responsibility when it comes to the education of their children, but will also be better equipped at providing the best possible education for their children
  • The people who do decide to become teachers and instructors will be those who are passionate about teaching as teaching will not simply be an easy access to a stable salary. This is an important point, because we have all experienced how demotivating it is to be taught by someone who’s not only unskilled at teaching but who also is highly ineffective at it and few of us have experienced the stark difference it is to be taught by someone who’s not only qualified but also passionate about teaching.
  • The budget for education is determined only by how far we are willing to go to provide the best possible education for our children. What we are talking about here is not necessarily fancy school structures and infinite budgets for schools to take their students on fieldtrips. It is also not astronomical teachers salaries, but instead simply to – through resetting the idea that school budgets must be kept as low as possible – give ourselves the space and time to rethink what education can and should be. A specific example of this has to do with class sizes, which I covered in a recent blog that you can read here.

Instead of doing a thought experiment where we imagine a ‘Day in the Life’ of a child or parent in a Living Income system, I’d like to ask you to simply imagine for yourself how it would be like for you as a parent to raise your child in a world where struggling to survive is no longer the first priority because this point will be taken care of by the Living Income System. How will it be like to wake up in the morning? To get everyone dressed, fed and ready for the day? How will it be like to have the ‘luxury’ of the right to decide between parenting as a ‘life-path’, a career or even both, in a way that supports everyone involved?

How many mothers and fathers do not go to work every day feeling guilty, stressed and apathetic, knowing that they’re leaving their child in the hands of strangers? How many parents can honestly say that they have full trust in the daycare and education-system to do what is best for their children? And if they have the trust, how many will admit that it is a trust build on hope because anything else would be too unbearable to consider?

I’m sure many parents have considered homeschooling their children for this exact reason, but realistically speaking, how many are in a financial position where they are able to do so? And how many parents have had any form of training in terms of communicating with and effectively educating a child?

Imagine if all parents would receive proper training, similar to that of kindergarten- and elementary school teachers, but even more streamlined and supportive. How would your communication with your child change?

Obviously not all parents will want to be homeschoolers and therefore teachers will play an important role in a Living Income system. What I would like you to consider here is that schools and the education system in general does not have to be the way that it is currently. The current school-model is primarily based on an industrial perspective on education, where as many people are to be educated, as cheaply as possible, with the result that the current school system is actually not an optimal learning environment. It is therefore important that we dare to step out of the idea of schools only being one thing, one model and dare to imagine that it could be completely different. An example of this could be a much more streamlined and flexible transition between home-life and school-life, where a community of parents join together to create ‘mini-schools’. If families living together in the same apartment building for example come together in a joint effort to take care of and educate their children, it would mean that some parents could work, whereas others could stay in the community and care for the children. Maybe the parents could even hire a teacher if they prefer to do so; with the teacher being an individual whose passion it is to be a teacher.

Teaching ought to be a ‘calling’ that people decides to do because they’re passionate about teaching. Imagine if all teachers were people who truly enjoy and are exceptionally skilled at teaching, imagine a small group of students all working together and at the same time with individualized curricular aligned to their individual needs. The importance of passionate teachers is not to be underestimated and studies have even shown much difference a teacher makes when it is someone who truly enjoys what they are doing.

Many of the most skilled and qualified teachers today quit their jobs because the working conditions are unacceptable. To retain their integrity and respect for the teaching-profession they actually have to quit their jobs because they see that the current system in no way will allow them to teach in the way they see will truly benefit the children. With 35 children in a classroom having to be taught according to a standardized curriculum and given an exuberant amount of tests, it is no wonder that these compassionate and creative teachers decide to quit their jobs. Instead teaching becomes something you do if you don’t know what else to do or because you see it as an easy access to a stable income. That is certainly not how it should be. However – what we’re suggesting with the Living Income proposal is not that the solution then is to merely give teachers higher salaries. Instead we suggest that teachers are giving a Living Income due to the fact that their performing a public service and it is detrimental for the teaching-profession if becoming a teacher is something one does for the money.

What we are proposing instead is to provide teachers, and so students with optimized learning environments and conditions; small student groups, time to prepare and do research, resources and equipment available that need all the teachers needs.

Imagine what it would be like in such a school environment where the highest priority is on the joy of learning, not as a platitude we tell our students, but as a real statement of intent that translates into practical reality as learning environments optimized to fit all students needs: spaces for reading and introspection, labs equipped with everything needed to effectively teach biology and physics, music studios, painting studios, language labs, excursions to local work-places, guest lecturers, internships for older students – basically a strong coherence between school-life and the rest of society where school isn’t merely a simulation or containment facility but where it actually becomes an integral part of society, given equal importance and priority.

Imagine if all students were taught in exactly the way that fits their individual needs, imagine if all students were treated with great care and consideration when it comes to nurture and support them to reach their true potential. Wouldn’t the world look very different? Wouldn’t we as people be more fulfilled on an individual level and better equipped at stepping into society as highly contributory citizens?

Imagine an education system that truly honors its students, that show them the greatest respect in teaching them to honor life. Imagine an education system where compassion and equality are not simply slogans we throw around to make our excuse for an education system look better, but an integral part of a child’s daily life.

As you can see, the sky is really the limit when it comes to imagining an education system that is optimized and aligned to each student’s individual need. There are so many possibilities available once we step out of the limits of the current education system where schools are pressed to the max to keep budgets down and deliver a fully standardized education.

As a teacher, I stand 100 % behind the proposal for a Living Income system because I would for one like to see and experience an education system that truly honors the human potential, that does not compromise and that has as its chief aim to ensure that all children are educated in the best way possible to harness their unique potential in this world. I would like to see the adults that walk out of such an education system and I have no doubt that the world will be forever changed because of it. This can truly be an exciting time to be alive – if only we dare to step out of our comfort zones and realize that we are capable of so much more, if only we start honoring and celebrating life – and what better place to start doing that than through the potential of our children?

If you are ready to get involved in a political and economic change of paradigms and thereby also a change of our education systems, I invite you to investigate the Equal Life Foundation’s proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income System. This proposal suggests a groundbreaking change in political paradigms that doesn’t ‘take sides’ but instead presents a completely new approach to solving the problems we are currently facing in this world.

Re-Educate yourself here:

A couple of weeks ago I was part of the panel on a Live Google Hangout about the Common Core standards initiative. I definitely recommend watching it.

The Ultimate History Lesson with John Taylor Gatto:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQiW_l848t8

PROPAGANDA | FULL ENGLISH VERSION (2012)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NMr2VrhmFI

The Century of the Self
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7EwXmxpExw

Psywar
http://metanoia-films.org/psywar/

The Trap
http://archive.org/details/AdamCurtis_TheTrap

The Power Principle
http://metanoia-films.org/the-power-principle/

Human Resources: Social Engineering in the 20th Century
http://metanoia-films.org/human-resources/

The Story of Your Enslavement
http://youtu.be/Xbp6umQT58A

Blind Spot
https://vimeo.com/30559203

Inequality for all documentary:
http://www.putlocker.to/watch-inequality-for-all-online-free-putlocker.html

The Four Horsemen:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fbvquHSPJU

On Advertisement and the end of the world:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8gM0Q58iP0

Third World America – Chris Hedges
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drZE65_134g

More articles about parenting and education in a Guaranteed Living Income System:

http://livingincomeforall.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/parents-need-a-living-income-now/

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/category/parenting/

http://economistjourneytolife.blogspot.com/2014/01/day-259-living-income-guaranteed-and.html

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/the-self-perpetuating-cycle-of-homelessness-and-living-income-guaranteed/

Watch the hangout about Education for a New World in Order: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlj5wGCRnSU

 

 

Imagine A Day in the Life of Your Child. 95

Imagine A Day in the Life of Your Child. 95

A DAy in the Life of your childAre you a parent to a child in school or do you plan to be one day? If so, I’d like you to join me in a thought experiment. How we’re going to do that I’ll explain in a moment, but first let me explain why exactly I’d like you to join me in this experiment:

Working as a teacher I’ve come to realize that parents hold the key to changing the education system.

Here’s why:

Parents, unlike teachers, aren’t paid to do what they do. You don’t get paid to be a parent. As teachers we are hired to follow guidelines and curricular, often stipulated by governments and other formal institutions. Our jobs depends on us following and adhering to the goals and principles set by the status quo of the current establishment. This means, that even if we see fundamental flaws in the education system, there is little we can do about it because our very livelihoods are dependent on that same flawed system. As parents, your primary interest is the wellbeing and success of your child. You don’t get paid to be a parent and so within the boundaries of the laws of your country, you have the right to raise your child as you see fit.

Now – I know that many parents are worried about their children’s future and whether the education system is equipped to effectively educate their children to step into that future. I also know that many parents feel left out and unable to effectively direct their child’s education because so much is left up to schools to decide and most parents have very little time to acquaint themselves with what’s going on in school. What the media and politicians are sharing is often ambiguous and confusing as they in one moment talk about how advanced the education system has become and in the next, expose one troubling result after another showing how schools in many countries are failing even the basic task of teaching their students to read, write and do math. Because of the poor results, many countries are implementing reforms and taking measures into improving the academic performance of students. Students are therefore being tested like never before.

As a teacher spending every day in the education system, I observe and reflect on children’s experiences. I do that because I care, because education is my passion – because I would like to see an education system that truly supports children to grow into their full potential. I see that the current education system is in no way optimal. I see things happening in schools that I would never want my child to experience. But as a teacher there is little I can do about it, because my job is to stand by the status quo, that is what I am hired to do and the children are in an even more disadvantageous position as their voices doesn’t count in the grand scheme of things. They’re there because they have to be, whether they like it or not, whether it supports them to truly learn or not.

The people with the greatest power and ability to speak up and stand up to change the status quo of the current education system are parents. But most parents don’t know what’s really going on. Instead they put their faith and trust in the teachers to teach and in the politicians to effectively determine what principles and values that their children are being taught. But what do you as a parent actually know about the life your child live when they are in school? When you ask them how their day went or what they learned, what do they say?

Therefore, I would like to give you as a parent a glimpse into what your child may experience as they go to school on a daily basis. I’d like to give you a glimpse into what it is really like for a child to go to school in today’s society – so that you may start to see that what’s really happening within education is not what is best for your child. I would also like you to see that there is an alternative, that there is a solution, that this is not how it has to be and that learning and going to school could be so much more than what it is today.

But before we get to that, let’s us start with our thought-experiment:

The following is a story of a day in the life of a student of unspecified origin, age and gender. Some of the details may coincide with your child’s experiences, others may not. The story is based on my observations of the lives of – and conversations with children in today’s Western school system. As you read the story, I’d like you to imagine that you are this child, that these are your experiences – and to then ask yourself whether this is the kind of education you would want if you were a child today.

I’m snugged into my bed when my mom yells at me to wake up. I open my eyes and see that it is still dark outside. I tug the blanket over my head. My mom comes into my room, yanks the blanket off and says that I have to get up or I will be late for school. I drag myself out of bed. It is cold and my body feels tired. I can barely open my eyes. I put on my pants and suddenly remember that kid yesterday who teased me because my pants didn’t have the right cut. The right cut. I feel embarrassed and ashamed. I quickly pull the pants off and throw them in a corner. I yell at my mom and ask why she bought me these pants that aren’t even in style and that I want new pants. They have to be this brand, it’s important. She yells back from the kitchen that we’ll have to see if we have enough money at the end of the month. I sigh. It’s always about the money. I scavenge my closet for a pair of pants that can pass as acceptable. When I put them on I feel nervous and hope that no one notices the patch that my mom has sown on. It would be so embarrassing. I feel a knot forming in my stomach.

When I come into the kitchen, my mom is running around looking for her keys. With a stressed look in her eyes she tells me to quickly eat my breakfast so that I won’t miss the school buss. She’s frowning. I don’t feel hungry at all but I chuck down a bowl of cereal with milk as fast as I can while I watch TV. My stomach feels funny afterwards, but I feel more awake. I hear the school buss pull up and I run out, grab my backpack, and barely get to put my shoes on before I’m out the door. I can hear my mom yelling from the kitchen that I didn’t finish my breakfast. I run as fast as I can but still miss the buss. Now she’s going to be pissed. I come back to the house.

My mom is already standing outside the door with her car keys and a tight look on her face. She says that she has an important meeting today and that she can’t be late. We get into the car. None of us say anything on the way. Right when we pull up to the school she asks me if I remembered to do my biology homework. I feel the knot in the stomach again. I tell her I did, not to worry her or get into trouble… but I didn’t. I tried for half an hour, but I couldn’t understand the questions. The knot is there again, churning in my stomach.

I get out of the car and start walking up to the school. It is a towering grey building with tiny windows and a cemented yard. It looks intimidating and cold, like a prison. I think to myself: “why does school look like a prison?.” I hurry in through the door to not be late. The staircase is dirty and the wallpaper is crumbling off the walls. As I walk into the classroom the teacher looks at me with a sour look in his eyes. There are 35 students in the class and I wiggle my way down in-between the tables and chairs that barely fit into the small room. Someone throws a paper ball directly on my head. I turn around, unsure who is out to get me. I pretend like I didn’t feel it and sit down, feeling slightly paranoid whether I am now going to be targeted by one or more bullies in the class. The knot in my stomach churns.

The table I sit at is too small, too tall and the chair is cold and hard. My stomach already feels empty again and it starts rumbling. I’m afraid the other students will start laughing at me if they hear it, so I quench my stomach muscles to make it stop. While the teacher is talking I try to pay attention but it is so difficult. It is literally like the words are buzzing around my head like a swarm of mosquitos or a fog that surrounds my head, but its like I can’t tune into the right frequency and clearly hear and absorb the words.

Mechanically I write down what the teacher is saying and writing on the board. It is math. That much I know. The muffled sound of the teacher’s words feels oddly soothing and I start dozing off. I realize it when my head nods and I try to stay alert. The worst thing that could happen is if the teacher calls on me, so I am thankful that I am so far back in class. I hope he won’t notice me. When the bell rings I feel a sigh of relief. One lesson down of a day that feels like its going to last eternally.

All the students run out of the classroom pushing and shoving each other. The hallway fills up with children and a loud, almost unbearable cacophony of voices. The kids are bumping into each other, some start wrestling, and others take out their albums with soccer stars or stickers to trade with other kids. Someone starts crying. Everyone puts on their coats, some grab a soccer ball and we all walk out into the yard. The rules stipulate that the students must be outside during recess. Today I would much rather be snuggled up somewhere inside with a book. I long for the peace and quiet of my bedroom. In the yard, there’s not much to do. There are two broken hockey nets that the kids use for soccer. There’s a faded hopscotch patch that the girls don’t use anymore.

Mostly the kids just run around or walk around. It reminds me of one of those prison movies that I saw one night when my mom was sleeping. In the prison movie the inmates would walk around in the yard, play cool and tough and would make deals and break out fights with each other while the guards look the other way.  It’s the same in our schoolyard, except that we are children and the guards are teachers. Someone is always getting picked on and I try my best to make sure I don’t get noticed so that I’m not next. Some girls are whispering about another girl that walks away crying. An older student knocks down a boy with funny looking legs that can’t walk straight. They laugh. I look away.

The noise is reaching its heights when the bell rings. I’m almost grateful the recess is over and I drag myself to yet another classroom, yet another lesson. One of the teachers is real nice and I like the lesson, but it is so short and many of the other students didn’t read the book we had for homework so we don’t get far. I try to talk to her about what happens next in the book cause I found it so interesting and I have a question I’ve been waiting to ask her since last week. But she hushes at me and instead goes over everything again so that the other students can keep up. It’s the third time I’ve heard it. I draw doodles on my book.

And so it continues until lunch. I go into the cafeteria that is again filled with the buzzing and deafening sound of voices. I feel starving now. At the cafeteria I look around to see who I can sit with, it’s like playing chess in my mind. If I sit with that girl, the other kids might think I like her, but she got bullied last year and I don’t want to be next. That kid used to be my friend but everyone hates him now so I’m not going to sit there. There’s that cool kid that everyone looks up to, but he’s such an asshole. Last time I sat next to him he stole half my lunch and I was hungry the rest of the day. So I sit alone.

The lunch is cold and soggy. After I’ve eaten it I feel a little fuller but its like the food doesn’t really fill me up. So I go to the vending machine. They put up these machines all over the schools with soda and candy. Then the soda and candy companies came and gave us some pens and other material. So I have a soda. Afterwards my teeth itch but I feel a little bit more awake.

After lunch we have a test. I can barely understand the questions and I can’t sit still. I keep looking up at the clock. Tick tock. It feels like the time is moving faster than normal. I try to concentrate on the questions on the test but the kids behind me keep talking and whispering. The letters on the test look all mushed together and I can’t focus. I guess and hope that I got enough right to pass. I count the time till the bell rings.

All I want to do is to go home to my nice cozy bed, play some computer games, watch some series and sleep. The bell rings. I take the buss home. When I come home my mom is again running around in the kitchen looking stressed. When we sit down to eat, she asks me how my day was. I say: “Fine”. I go to my room and close the door. I exhale.

This story might seem thought provoking, unrealistic even. Much of it might not resemble what your child experiences on a daily basis; some might be worse in real life, some might be better, but what I would like to show with this story is how the current education system is not an optimal learning environment for any child.

As I mentioned earlier, what I’ve realized as a teacher is that most parents know very little about what school is really like. Obviously all parents have gone to school themselves, so they do have some reference and probably remember much of what I’ve described here from their own experiences – and yet there is this hope and faith that the education system will effectively take care of their children, when in all honesty it will not.

Obviously as teachers we do what we can to provide your child with the best possible education, but at the end of the day we have no choice but to conform to the standards and conditions we are met with. We don’t have time to talk to your child individually. We don’t have time to even get to know your child enough to effectively teach them in a way that works best for them. I certainly wish we did. But we don’t decide how many students are to be jam-packed into one class. We don’t decide what curricular to teach. We don’t even decide what principles to teach according to. We’re given standardized tests to hand out to students because that’s what the current establishment sees as the best way to optimize the current education system, to get your children to achieve better… for the sake of the economy and the competition on the global market.

The question I would ask myself as a parent is: is that enough? Is that all I want for my child? Am I satisfied with that? Can I honestly say that the education I received as a child sufficiently prepared me to face life as an adult? What would an education system look like that truly prioritized the learning and wellbeing of my child?

To answer this question, in the next post, I’d like to invite you to join me in another thought experiment.

This time we will imagine what school would be like if the wellbeing and expansive potential of our children was a top priority in the education system. We will imagine what school would be like if the status quo of our society changed its governing principles from competition in the global economy to a system of mutual support, a system where each citizen is supported by society as a whole to thrive. We will imagine what happens to a child’s education when parents take active part in their learning process – and we will discuss how this has the potential to, not only change the life of each individual child, but in fact the world as we know it. So stay tuned.

If you are ready to get involved in a political and economic change of paradigms and thereby also a change of our education systems, I invite you to investigate the Equal Life Foundation’s proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income System. This proposal suggests a groundbreaking change in political paradigms that doesn’t ‘take sides’ but instead presents a completely new approach to solving the problems we are currently facing in this world.

Re-Educate yourself here:

A couple of weeks ago I was part of the panel on a Live Google Hangout about the Common Core standards initiative. I definitely recommend watching it.

The Ultimate History Lesson with John Taylor Gatto:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQiW_l848t8

PROPAGANDA | FULL ENGLISH VERSION (2012)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NMr2VrhmFI

The Century of the Self
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7EwXmxpExw

Psywar
http://metanoia-films.org/psywar/

The Trap
http://archive.org/details/AdamCurtis_TheTrap

The Power Principle
http://metanoia-films.org/the-power-principle/

Human Resources: Social Engineering in the 20th Century
http://metanoia-films.org/human-resources/

The Story of Your Enslavement
http://youtu.be/Xbp6umQT58A

Blind Spot
https://vimeo.com/30559203

Inequality for all documentary:
http://www.putlocker.to/watch-inequality-for-all-online-free-putlocker.html

The Four Horsemen:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fbvquHSPJU

On Advertisement and the end of the world:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8gM0Q58iP0

Third World America – Chris Hedges
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drZE65_134g

More articles about parenting and education in a Guaranteed Living Income System:

http://livingincomeforall.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/parents-need-a-living-income-now/

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/category/parenting/

http://economistjourneytolife.blogspot.com/2014/01/day-259-living-income-guaranteed-and.html

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/the-self-perpetuating-cycle-of-homelessness-and-living-income-guaranteed/

Watch the hangout about Education for a New World in Order: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlj5wGCRnSU

 

 

Why Smaller Classes are Essential for The Success and Well-Being of Your Child. 94

Why Smaller Classes are Essential for The Success and Well-Being of Your Child. 94

Small class sizeIn this post I discuss how class sizes are one of the biggest, yet most overlooked problems in the current education system – both when it comes to facilitating students academic achievement as well as nurturing their overall wellbeing and development on a personal level.  The questions I raise in this post has to do with the priorities we make within the education system, and so for our children and ultimately for the future of humanity. They are questions I suggest that every parent, teacher and concerned citizen considers for themselves, because although it seems trivial, this is an example of the disintegration of our education systems through a hostile takeover by the corporate world, that we’ve come to take for granted as ‘the way it is’. But it doesn’t have to be.

I will begin by sharing recent experiences I had within teaching here in Sweden to exemplify how grave this problem is and how it can be seen having tragic consequences in the seemingly trivial events of our children’s daily lives.

Recently I was teaching a three-year old student in a preschool. While we were playing, he found a tiny Lego wheel on the floor and joyously said, “It belongs in the Lego box!” So together we walked out of the playroom and with determination he marched towards the Lego box in the other side of the room. Meanwhile, one of his regular teachers had heard that we were going to the Lego box and promptly stopped him in his tracks, telling him to go and clean up where he had played first. I saw that she had misunderstood his intentions and I explained to her that he was simply on his way to put the Lego piece back in the box. It was interesting because I could see that she was rather embarrassed over having gotten strict towards him in assuming that he was just leaving what he’d been playing with to now play with something else. The more important question is: what did the boy learn from this experience?

To see the consequence of this type of misalignment between the teacher and the student, let’s look at another example, this time with an older student that has already been conditioned through the education system for a number of years:

I was walking down the hall at another school with a teacher when a 6-year-old student came in from the outside. As soon as he saw the teacher, he quickly started explaining how he was just going to the bathroom and that he was not wearing his shoes indoors. Already before she had even opened her mouth, he was already preparing himself to get in trouble, assuming that he would get in trouble, even though what he was doing was perfectly fine. Situations like this happen all the time in schools all over the world, and as trivial as they seem, they have the consequence that many children become timid and afraid of adults, always feeling like they’ve done something wrong, even if they haven’t. This on the other hand creates distrust, resentment and a desire to rebel within the children, perpetuating a self-fulfilling prophecy where the children become that which the teachers expect them to be. And as adults, who do these children become? Followers or leaders? Strong, independent human beings that take responsibility for their own lives or apathetic, confused teenagers that never really grow up?

When teachers become snappy with students and when they make quick judgmental assumptions about children in general, it is not because these teachers are ‘bad’. What many outside the school system might not realize is that there are so many students and so much going on at one time that the teachers simply can’t see everything or direct every situation. Therefore they come to rely on assumptions about how children tend to act. This is not optimal, it is not even acceptable – but it is the education system and the conditions we have accepted for our children.

An example of how a teacher can be so overwhelmed that she compromises her ability to effectively teach, was a situation where I was waiting for a 1.grade student while standing in the class where the teacher was teaching the rest of the students. The students were moving around, making noise and there was a general sense of confusion. The teacher (who is new) stood in the doorway and she yelled at a student for walking out of class saying that he couldn’t do the assignment and that she could do it. She told him that it was disrespectful and that it is his own responsibility to learn. As he walked out the door, another student came up behind her with a timid look on his face holding a paper. He quietly asked what he was supposed to do and she brushed him off and told him to go back to his seat. This was significant to me, because the student had simply asked a question, but because the teacher was already involved with a conflict with another student, she took her irritation and frustration out on this student, who went back to his seat with a despondent look on his face. Mind you, these are 7 year olds we are talking about.

Now – what I would like to clarify is that none of these examples has to do with teachers being ‘bad teachers’. Granted, there are teachers who aren’t necessarily meant for the teaching-profession, but the reason why I share these examples is to show that one of the biggest problems for teachers today is that there are simply too many children in the classroom. It affects the teacher’s ability to teach effectively.

I have furthermore seen for myself how these seemingly small mistakes, where teachers make assumptions or rush to conclusions, can create big consequences for a child’s life and self-development, especially when they are repeated on a daily basis over and over again. And the bigger the class is, the more students the teachers have to oversee, the easier it is to make assumptions and ‘small mistakes’.

In my line of work I see many different schools throughout the week and in reflecting over which schools are more effective in their approach towards children, I’ve been surprised to see how it is not necessarily that certain schools have higher standards or better teachers, but simply that they are smaller. I for example go to a public school in a rural area that has the exact same budget and curriculum as any other public school. But a big difference is that it is about the third of the size of other schools. All the children know each other and they know all the teachers and the teachers know them. Unlike most schools, the school was built in 1997 and was designed by an architect. Most schools here in Sweden are either archaic buildings from the 60’s and 70’s that are drawing their last breaths or are designed ‘economically’ to hold large capacities of students. Classroom sizes may seem like a small detail that shouldn’t affect the actual learning environment, but it does – greatly so.

No teachers can effectively teach 20 or 30 students at once, let alone 50 or 60, as is the case in some countries. Furthermore, the younger the child is, the more supervision and support is needed and I would go as far as saying that any child’s optimal learning environment would be based on one-on-one lessons, at the very least no more than 5-10 students in the classroom. (This may sound controversial and for those interested in reading more about this, I wrote a blog post about this as well which you can find here.) Unfortunately most of us are so used to the cramped and smelly classrooms housing at least 30 students that we don’t even consider the possibility that it could be different, let alone that it should be different.

Some researchers claim, as for example the ones quoted in this[1] article from The Economist, that classroom sizes doesn’t matter as much and that raising teachers salaries is a much more equitable way to optimize education. They used the example from primary schools in China where there can easily be up to 50 students in a class. The problem is that the supposed ’effectiveness’ of such classes is based on strict discipline and a model of teaching where children are expected to be passive recipients of rote learning and memorization techniques, models that may produce great results in grades, but that leaves very little room for the students self-expression, creativity and critical thinking skills to flourish. Other studies such as the one mentioned in this[2] article claims that ‘teacher quality’ is more important than smaller classroom for students overall academic performance, but fails to consider that an education that does not only provide students with the best possible learning environment, but also supports them to grow and develop on a personal level, requires both the best teachers and smaller classrooms; one certainly should exclude the other. Unfortunately, this kind of thinking comes from an outlook on education that first and foremost looks at keeping budgets down while ensuring students academic performance.

In alignment with my direct experiences from working in schools, many studies does however accredit small class sizes to students academic achievement as well as to their overall wellbeing on a personal level. To show the overwhelming evidence of the importance of class sizes, I’ll refer you to a large selection of studies done in recent years showing exactly this.[i]

Anyone who has tried teaching or directing a class of more than 10 students knows what a challenge it is, and how difficult it is to make sure that each student is given individual attention to suit their needs. Instead teachers are forced to provide students with standardized lessons that is supposed to at least fulfill the academic needs of the majority of a class and it might teach most students how to read, write and do math at a basic level – but the question is how low a standard we will accept just to keep the budgets on education down? Simply because something works on a marginal level, it does certainly not mean that this is optimal – and as a society we ought to look ourselves deep in the mirror and ask why it is we’re not providing our children with the most optimal learning environment possible? Why are we accepting non-supportive learning environments as the norm and even more so: why do we believe that simply because it is the norm, it is automatically the most optimal? With smaller classes, optimally no more than 5 students pr. teacher, each child will be able to be supported on an individual level, which in turn will enable the teacher to assist the child to develop their full potential, based on their individual natural learning ability.

If we truly valued our children’s lives and with them, the future, wouldn’t we want to create the best possible learning environment? And how can we even pretend to answer that question with a solid ‘YES’ when we so blatantly accept our education system to be subject to a hostile takeover by the corporate system?

At the Equal Life Foundation we are proposing real long-term solutions, solutions that involve parents getting much more involved in their child’s education. We are also proposing solutions that will enable parents to take more active part in their child’s education, thereby relieving the pressure on the education system to live up to the task of raising and educating our children, a task that it is in no way equipped to handle. There is absolutely no reason why all children should not be given the best possible education available – and when the sole argument against this fact, is money, we know that there is something utterly wrong with the way we prioritize in this world. This is not a responsibility that solely falls upon the politicians to sort out. It is in fact the responsibility of all of us, because it is our future that is at stake, the future of our children, of this planet, and of life, as we know it. Get involved today, investigate the education system in your area, expose the denigration of the school-system and join us as we embark on this virgin-voyage to, for the first time in human history, create a life we can actually be proud of.

[1] http://www.economist.com/news/international/21616978-higher-teacher-pay-and-smaller-classes-are-not-best-education-policies-new-school

[2] http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2013/12/10/excerpts-from-the-pisa-report-on-class-sizes/

  • [i] Zyngier, David. (2014). Class size and academic results, with a focus on children from culturally, linguistically and economically disenfranchised communities. Evidence Base, issue 1, 2014.  In this research summary, the author examined class size reduction and its effect on student achievement by analyzing 112 peer-reviewed studies, and showed that the overwhelming majority of these studies found that smaller classes have a significant impact on student achievement and narrowing the achievement gap. The author writes, “Noticeably, of the papers included in this review, only three authors supported the notion that smaller class sizes did not produce better outcomes to justify the expenditure.”
  • Schanzenbach, D. W. (2014). Does Class Size Matter? National Education Policy Center Policy Brief. “This policy brief summarizes the academic literature on the impact of class size and finds that class size is an important determinant of a variety of student outcomes, ranging from test scores to broader life outcomes. Smaller classes are particularly effective at raising achievement levels of low-income and minority children.  Policymakers should carefully weigh the efficacy of class-size policy against other potential uses of funds. While lower class size has a demonstrable cost, it may prove the more cost-effective policy overall.”
  • Achilles, C. M., et al. (2012). Class-size Policy: The Star Experiment and Related Class-size Studies. NCPEA Policy Brief, 1.2. “A reanalysis of the Tennessee STAR experiment found that small classes (15-17 pupils) in kindergarten through third grade (K-3) provide short- and long-term benefits for students, teachers, and society at large….poor, minority, and male students reap extra benefits in terms of improved test outcomes, school engagement, and reduced grade retention and dropout rates.”
  • Shin, Yongyun (2012). Do Black Children Benefit More From Small Classes? Multivariate Instrumental Variable Estimators With Ignorable Missing Data. Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics, 37 (4). An analysis of experimental data from Tennessee’s Student-Teacher  Achievement Ratio study show that, for Black students, reduced class size caused higher academic achievement in the four domains (reading, mathematics, listening, and word recognition skills) each year from kindergarten to third grade, while for other students, it improved the four outcomes except for first-grade listening in kindergarten and first grade only. Evidence shows that Black students benefit more than others from reduced class size in first-, second-, and third-grade academic achievement, substantially narrowing the achievement gap.
  • Dynarski, S., Hyman, J., & Schanzenbach, D. W. (2011). Experimental Evidence on the Effect of Childhood Investment on Postsecondary Attainment and Degree Completion. NBER Working Paper. “The study concludes that attending a small class increases the rate of college attendance, with the largest positive impact on black and poor students.  Among those students with the lowest predicted probability of attending college, a small class increased rate of college attendance by 11 percentage points.  Attending a small class also increases the probability of earning a college degree, and to shift students toward earning degrees in high-earning fields such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), business and economics.”
  • Bascia, N. (2010). Reducing Class Size: What do we Know?. Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Reviewed research base and analyzed statistical data collected by the Canadian Ministry of Education between 2003-04 and 2007-08. Involved field research in eight school districts, 24 schools, and 84 classrooms. Classroom observations were undertaken at each primary grade level, from K-3. All teachers were surveyed in each school. Parent surveys included representation from every school district in Ontario. “Nearly three-quarters of the primary teachers reported that the quality of their relationships with students had improved as a result of the smaller class size, and two-thirds said their students were more engaged in learning than before class size reduction…Many parents of children enrolled in smaller classes reported that their children appeared to be learning more and were more comfortable at school.”
  • Heilig, J.V., Williams, A. & Jez, S.U. (2010). Input and student achievement: An analysis of Latina/o –serving urban elementary schools. Association of Mexican American Educators (AMAE) Journal, 48 -58. Examined readily available input variables in Texas Ed. databases in three of the four largest TX districts (Houston, Dallas and Austin) in 419 schools that are majority Latina/o over 4 years (2005-2008). Evaluated variables such as school funding expenditures, tests scores, ethnicity, and teacher certification, teacher-student ratio and degree obtainment to identify any impact on student achievement in urban elementary schools. “Most powerful predictor of changes in reading and math in all models was decreasing the student teacher ratio…. Essentially, decreasing the student teacher ratio by 1 percentage point would increase the percentage of students proficient on the TAKS by 3% for reading and by 4% for math (p54).”
  • Jepsen, C., & Rivkin, S. (2009). Potential Tradeoff between Teacher Quality and Class Size. Journal of Human Resources, 44.1. This paper investigates the effects of California’s billion-dollar class-size-reduction program on student achievement;….”[T]here is little or no support for the hypotheses that the need to hire large numbers of teachers following the adoption of CSR [class-size reduction] led to a lasting reduction in the quality of instruction,” according to the study. “Overall, the findings suggest that CSR increased achievement in the early grades for all demographic groups….”
  • Konstantopoulos, S., & Chun, V. (2009). What Are the Long-Term Effects of Small Classes on the Achievement Gap? Evidence from the Lasting Benefits Study,” American Journal of Education 116.  A summary of the effects of smaller classes on the achievement gap through eighth grade.  Effects significant in all tested subjects, and for those in smaller classes for four years, very substantial. “The results … provided convincing evidence that all types of students (e.g., low, medium, and high achievers) benefit from being in small classes (in early grades) across all achievement tests…. in certain grades, in reading and science, the cumulative effects of small classes for low achievers are substantial in magnitude and significantly different from those for high achievers.  Thus, class size reduction appears to be an intervention that increases the achievement levels for all students while simultaneously reducing the achievement gap.”
  • Babcock, P., & Betts, J.R. (2009). Reduced Class Distinctions: Effort, Ability, and The Education Production Function. Journal of Urban Economics, Vol. 65, pp. 314–322. Empirical findings indicate that class-size expansion may reduce gains for low-effort students more than for high-effort students, Results here…suggest …that larger gains for disadvantaged students may have occurred because small classes allow teachers to incentivize disengaged students more effectively, or because students are better able connect to the school setting in small classes.
  • King, J. (2008). Bridging the Achievement Gap: Learning from three charter schools (part 1), (part 2), (part 3), (part 4). Columbia University (Doctoral Dissertation).  “School size and class size are linked to the five key cultural values ….: a culture that teaches effort yields success; a culture of high expectations; a disciplined culture; a culture built on relationships; and a culture of excellence in teaching. Small classes and small overall student loads allow teachers to spend more time working with individual students to help them track their own progress and develop their skills – thus reinforcing the principle that effort yields success. High expectations are easier to maintain when teachers know their students well (because of small school and class size), can identify whether a student’s poor performance on an assessment reflects deficiencies in their effort or their understanding, and can respond accordingly.”
  • Lubienski, S. T., et.al. (2008). Achievement Differences and School Type: The Role of School Climate, Teacher Certification, and Instruction. American Journal of Education, 115. Multilevel analysis of National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics data for over 270,000 fourth and eighth graders in over 10,000 schools finds that smaller class size is significantly correlated with higher achievement.
  • Magnuson, K.A., Ruhm, C. & Waldfogel, J. (2007). The persistence of preschool effects: Do subsequent classroom experiences matter? Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 22(1), 18 – 38. Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten cohort (ECLS-K), it has been demonstrated that children who attended preschool enter public schools with higher levels of academic skills than their peers who experienced other types of child care. This study considered … the types of classrooms in which students who did not attend preschool “catch up” to their counterparts who did. The findings suggested that most of the preschool-related gap in academic skills at school entry is quickly eliminated for children placed in small classrooms and classrooms providing high levels of reading instruction. Conversely, the initial disparities persisted for children experiencing large classes and lower levels of reading instruction.
  • Ready, D. D., & Lee, V. E. (2006/7). Optimal Context Size in Elementary Schools: Disentangling the Effects of Class Size and School Size. Brookings Papers on Education Policy, pp. 99-135. Study finds that class size rather than school size makes a positive difference, and suggests that “if children remained in the same elementary school for five or six years … differences would be very substantial: a roughly 10-point advantage for children in small over large classes by the end of sixth grade, or 4.5 months of additional learning.”
  • Unlu, F. (2005). California Class Size Reduction Reform: New Findings from the NAEP. Princeton University. Study found that California’s fourth grade students who were in reduced class sizes in grades K-3 had substantially higher scores in math on the national assessments (NAEPs), of between 0.2 and 0.3 of a standard deviation, compared to closely matched students who were not in smaller classes.
  • Finn, J. D., et. al. (2005). Small Classes in the Early Grades, Academic Achievement, and Graduating From High School. Journal of Educational Psychology. “For all students combined, 4 years of a small class in K–3 were associated with a significant increase in the likelihood of graduating from high school; the odds of graduating after having attended small classes for 4 years were increased by about 80.0%. Furthermore, the impact of attending a small class was especially noteworthy for students from low-income homes. Three years or more of small classes affected the graduation rates of low-SES students, increasing the odds of graduating by about 67.0% for 3 years and more than doubling the odds for 4 years.”
  • Dee, T. (2004). Teachers, Race, and Student Achievement in a Randomized Experiment. Review of Economics and Statistics. Study showing that student/teacher racial differences appear to negatively effect student achievement in regular size classes. Yet in small classes, students learn more, and racial disparity between teacher and student has no significant effect.
  • Barton, P. (2003). Parsing the Achievement Gap. Educational Testing Service.  Despite the fact that class size reduction has been shown to narrow the achievement gap, this study reveals that schools with large numbers of black and/or limited English students are more likely to have classes of 25 or more.
  • Institute of Education Sciences. (2003). Identifying and Implementing Educational Practices Supported by Rigorous Evidence: A User Friendly Guide. U.S. Department of Education. Class size reduction identified as one of four K-12 education reforms proven to increase learning.
  • Krueger, A. B., & Whitmore, D. M. (2002). Would Smaller Classes Help Close the Black-White Achievement Gap? from: Bridging the Achievement Gap, Brookings Institution Press. “Our analysis of the STAR experiment indicates that students who attend smaller classes in the early grades tend to have higher test scores while they are enrolled in those grades than their counterparts who attend larger classes….Moreover, black students tend to advance further… from attending a small class than do white students, both while they are in a small class and afterwards. For black students, we also find that being assigned to a small class for an average of two years in grade K – 3 is associated with an increased probability of subsequently taking the ACT or SAT college entrance exam, and 0.15-.20 standard deviation higher average score on the exam.”
  • Fidler, P., Phd. (2002). The Impact of class size reduction on student achievement.  Los Angeles Unified School District, Publication No. 109. “The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of class size reduction (CSR) on achievement among 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students with different numbers of years of participation in CSR…. We believe that CSR will help to increase student achievement, especially for students who need it the most: low SES students, limited English-speaking students, and those students in inner-city schools…. It can be concluded from the results of this study that CSR does help to increase language achievement gains, especially for ELL students.”
  • Biddle, B., & Berliner, D. (2002).  What Research Says About Small Classes and Their Effects.Wested. “When it is planned thoughtfully and funded adequately, long-term exposure to small classes in the early grades generates substantial advantages for students in American schools, and those extra gains are greater the longer students are exposed to those classes.”
  • U.S. Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics. (2000). School-Level Correlates of Academic Achievement: Student Assessment Scores in SASS Public Schools. NCES 2000-303, by Donald McLaughlin and Gili Drori. Project Officer: Michael Ross. Washington DC. The most authoritative study showing the importance of class size is in all grades, analyzing the achievement levels of students in 2,561 schools, as measured by performance on the NAEP (national) exams.  After controlling for student background, the only objective factor found to be positively correlated with student performance was class size, not school size, not teacher qualifications, nor any other variable that the researchers could identify. Student achievement was even more strongly linked to smaller classes in the upper rather than the lower grades.
  • Grissmer, D., et. al. (2000). Improving Student Achievement: What State NAEP Test Scores Tell Us. RAND. “States with higher per-pupil spending, lower class sizes and more pre-K have higher achievement levels. Disadvantaged children are the most likely to gain benefits from such programs.”
  • Pritchard, I. (1999). Reducing class size: What do we know? U.S. Department of Education. A comprehensive and wide-scale analysis of CSR analyses, experimental studies and state initiatives. “Researchers have used various techniques to study how class size affects the quality of education.… Overall, however, the pattern of research findings points more and more clearly toward the beneficial effects of reducing class size.
  • Bracey, G. (1999) Distortion and Disinformation about Class Size Reduction. EDDRA. Critique of Hanushek’s analyses of class size reduction.
  • Cromwell, S. (1998). Are smaller Classes the Answer? Education World. Thorough analysis of contemporary research articles evincing the benefits of smaller class sizes.
  • Achilles, C. M. (1997). Small Classes, Big Possibilities. The School Administrator. “Perhaps the idea of small classes for students in the early grades is so commonsensical today that educators don’t consider it a challenge. Yet education’s leaders must look beyond the surface variables to understand the systemic, domino-effect possibilities of class-size changes.”
  • NCTE: National Council of Teachers of English. (1996). Statement on Class Size and Teacher Workload: Elementary. Guideline for NCTE’s position on educational issues is in strong support of smaller class sizes, complete with facts and challenges. All of the major professional organizations in the field of composition recommend course sizes of no more than twenty students for K-1, based on the literature on class size and writing.
  • Mosteller, F. (1995).The Tennessee Study of class size in the early school grades. (1995). The Future of Children, 5.2. Formidable results from the historic large-scale experiment for early grades, Project STAR. “After four years, it was clear that smaller classes did produce substantial improvement in early learning and cognitive studies and that the effect of small class size on the achievement of minority children was initially about double that observed for majority children….”
  • AEU Fact Sheet Number 1. (1995).Class sizes do matter. Australian Education Union. Fact sheet with evidence from class size research projects and reading list for the general public.
  • Boozer, M., & Rouse, C. (1995). Intraschool variation in class size: patterns and implications. NBER Working Paper, No.5144. “We find that not only are blacks in schools with larger average class sizes, but they are also in larger classes within schools, conditional on class type…it appears that smaller classes at the eighth grade lead to larger test score gains from eighth to tenth grade and that differences in class size can explain approximately 15% of the black-white difference in educational achievement.” – Source: http://www.classsizematters.org/research-and-links/

 

 

 

 

 

Emancipated Learning and the Self-Empowered Student. 93

Emancipated Learning and the Self-Empowered Student. 93

Students Thinking of GoalsIt is a new school-term and the beginning of a new year in the world of teachers and students. In our world it is not New Years Eve that marks the most prominent transition from the old to the new, but the end of summer and the progression into yet another grade in, what for many students feels like the never-ending hamster wheel we call school. For teachers, the beginning of a new term gives us the opportunity to reflect on our teaching methods and curricular and to start over, with new students and new material and sometimes, with an entirely different perspective on life and learning.

Since I started working as a teacher, I noticed how demotivated the older students were and how the ‘spark of life’ that is so prominent in them when they are younger, slowly but surely starts dying out until what is left is the apathetic, withdrawn, passive aggressive and illusive human being that we call an adult. School is an artificial construction based on abstract simulations of reality, but it is not a part of reality itself – at least not the students´. An educational philosopher, whose name escapes me at the moment, once said that school is the only place in the world where what you do doesn’t’ matter or has any significant purpose in the world. What is produced in school is for the school – and that includes the student. Obviously we can come up with all sorts of existential and evolutionary explanations for why children have to go to school, but I assure you that the burden of the survival and advancement of our species is the farthest thing on children’s minds – at least on a conscious level.

To them, they go to school because their parents tell them to, because the teacher’s says so and because society is built that way. School becomes a place that children are forced to go to every day where they learn things that they do not see as having any connection to their reality. Obviously they understand that they have no choice and it is not like they are singlehandedly going to start a revolution in the classroom, so they do their homework, reluctantly and they sit still and pretend to listen to the teacher, reluctantly. This is perhaps the worst possible environment when it comes to the scientifically proven best conditions a human has to be in to learn, and yet we manage to shove just enough information into their heads so that they can advance to the next grade and the next. Many of the things students care about are considered irrelevant and obstructive to adults just as the questions kids ask are seen as interruptions and sabotage. From the age of seven the downward spiral begins, where the sprightly, curious child with a lust for life is forced into the sharp industrial cookie-cutter of the school system and as a someone who teaches students throughout all the grades, I see this devolution taking place on a daily level.

So I decided to do something about it and I realized that one of the reasons students become so demotivated and why they lose their passion for life, is because school is not their own. I realized that for children to be engaged on a genuine level school has to be meaningful to them and it has to be something they decide to do for themselves. This is not an easy task, because obviously there is no way to get around the fact that school is mandatory and that the children has little to no say in the matter. So I looked at how I could support the students to rather change their perspective on going to school, so that school becomes something they do for themselves.

As I was discussing this with a 7.th grade student I used the example of doing dishes, which is something everyone has to do, but not many would volunteer to if they had a choice. But even with doing the dishes that is a chore many of us disdain, we can change our perspective – and through that, we can make dishes something supportive that we do for ourselves and even enjoy and have fun doing.

So I asked the students to write down their academic and personal goals. The assignment was divided in two parts. In the first part the students had to write their academic and personal goals and before starting with the assignment we discussed (especially with the younger students) the different definitions of what a ‘goal’ is and what it means to set goals for oneself. I very explicitly point out that it had to be THEIR goals, not their parents goals, not their teachers goals and that they shouldn’t write something just for my sake. In the second part of the assignment the students had to write what they were going to do to reach their goals and how their parents/teachers could help them to reach their goals. I deliberately wrote, “What am I going to do to reach my goal” rather than “What can I do to reach my goal” so as to emphasize the commitment the students were making to themselves. I was very curious to see, especially how the older students would approach the assignment and I expected that they might be oppositional towards it. To my surprise most of the students took the assignment seriously, especially when I said that the goals were to be their own goals and that they should rather not write anything instead of writing something insincere just to please their teachers and parents.

However I did also gain some insights that I had never expected to come out of this exercise. I’ll share two examples here that further emphasize the grave problems we are facing in our school systems when children have no ownership what so ever over what they learn.

A 7-year-old student in the 1th Grade had as her personal goal to get a cat. She couldn’t come up with any academic goals so we agreed that an academic goal she could set for herself would be to study and learn about cats. She was satisfied with that. It made me realize that academic goals cannot be separate from the personal goals if they are truly to be goals the children set for themselves, for their own sake. Consider it for a second, how absurd and meaningless does school not seem when we don’t even know why doing it or how meaningless life seem when we are told to go to school just so that we can grow up to survive? In bringing academic and personal goals together, the students learn that they can utilize the situation of going to school that is forced upon them, to actually support their true potential – and in turn embrace education as something they do for themselves and not for anyone else.

Secondly, a 13-year-old 7th grader said something profound when I discussed his goals with him. He said: “I don’t have any goals for myself. My teachers and parents decide all my goals. They set all the goals for me, so I don’t have to have any.” I asked him: “Okay, but how about simply setting a goal for yourself that is entirely your own?” He then said: “what if I said that my goal is playing computer games?” I said: “well, what’s wrong with that?” He said: “my mom wouldn’t like that.” I told him about a young man I know who’s only passion it was to play computer games and who now has embarked on a degree to become a computer game designer.

What was cool about this conversation was that through opening up the possibility of playing computer as a goal, as opposed to something he does that he knows his mother and teachers don’t approve of, he could for the first time start considering the point for himself. So as he reflected on it, he realized that playing computer isn’t really a goal he has. He said that, not me. Eventually we agreed that he would look at finding goals for himself that are his own to next week.

When students have no say or ownership over their education, it is no wonder that they become demotivated and apathetic, let alone that they don’t learn to take responsibility for their own lives and seeing their own potential. So this is what we will work with this term: makings education something that is real, relevant and meaningful in the students lives; something they do for themselves – so that they can take their life into their own hands at a substantial level. Isn’t that what we would all like for our children, let alone ourselves?

For more information on how you can become a catalyst of change, investigate the Living Income Guaranteed proposal.

More articles about parenting and education in a Guaranteed Living Income System:

http://livingincomeforall.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/parents-need-a-living-income-now/

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/category/parenting/

http://economistjourneytolife.blogspot.com/2014/01/day-259-living-income-guaranteed-and.html

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/the-self-perpetuating-cycle-of-homelessness-and-living-income-guaranteed/

Watch the hangout about Education for a New World in Order: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlj5wGCRnSU

How Much is Your Child’s Life Worth? 92

How Much is Your Child’s Life Worth? 92

a child's worthEducation is the fundamental pillar of society. It is through education that we pass on the knowledge, values and principles of a society from one generation to the next. It is through education that we teach children how to effectively live and corporate in this world. The school system is therefore not only about learning how to read, write and do math but also the place where the societal structures are regenerated and reinforced.

When children learn history for example, they learn to see the cultural context in which they are embedded in a certain way. When they learn geography they learn to see the world and the relationship between countries in a certain way. When they are taught biology, they come to understand the functions of their physical bodies as well as the interconnectedness between man and nature in a certain way. Through these lessons, a certain perspective on life and living is passed on that will affect whom the children grow up to become.

We do tend to look at education as objective, as though it is inherently and without question teaching children the exact lessons they need to learn to grow up to become effective citizens in this world. We tend to look at the evolution of society as a perpetually advancing process where we are constantly becoming more knowledgeable about our world and how to effectively manage it and ourselves in it.

The question is whether this is in fact so. Are we becoming more knowledgeable and effective at managing our world? Are we teaching children the exact lessons they need to learn for society to remain coherent and optimal? Are we teaching them to effectively manage even their own lives?

Children learn through formal education all the skills necessary to integrate effectively in society, but they also learn through an informal form of education, a form of education that is not always explicit where children learn through observing and analyzing and responding to their environment. An average child attending school in an industrialized society spends over 270 days during the year in school up to the age of 17. Looking at an entire life span, we spend more than 30 % of our life in school.

In spite of the enormous importance of education and the amount of time children spend in school, not much attention is given to the infrastructure of the school system such as the classrooms, the work spaces or the indoor climate of a school. In fact, when reading articles about the school system or when listening to politicians and academic researchers talking about how to improve the school system, focus is mostly placed on the curricular and course material; that which is supposed to go in through the ears of the students and come out as measurable results. The dynamics between children and the dynamics between students and teachers is also not given much attention. In fact, teachers are often seen as serving no other function than delivering knowledge and information that students are then supposed to integrate on an individual basis.

In a recent article on his website, professor of public policy at Berkley, California and critical economist Richard Reich discussed the economic and social devaluation of some of society’s most important workforces. He discussed how the amount of money someone is paid to do their job has nothing to do with how they contribute to society using preschool teachers and other social workers as an example:

“What’s the social worth of hospital orderlies who feed, bathe, dress, and move patients, and empty their ben pans? Surely higher than their median wage of $11.63 an hour, or $24,190 a year.

Or of child care workers, who get $10.33 an hour, $21.490 a year? And preschool teachers, who earn $13.26 an hour, $27,570 a year?

Yet what would the rest of us do without these dedicated people?

Or consider kindergarten teachers, who make an average of $53,590 a year.

Before you conclude that’s generous, consider that a good kindergarten teacher is worth his or her weight in gold, almost.

One study found that children with outstanding kindergarten teachers are more likely to go to college and less likely to become single parents than a random set of children similar to them in every way other than being assigned a superb teacher.” (Source: http://robertreich.org/post/93632709170)

At the other end of the spectrum we have CEO’s and hedge fund managers earning an obscene amount of money, doing what Reich describes as doing little more than playing high stakes games amounting to a mammoth waste of societal resources. They demand ever more cunning innovations but they create no social value. High-frequency traders who win by a thousandth of a second can reap a fortune, but society as a whole is no better off.”

Reich is absolutely right in his critique of the absurd inequality of income between the people who contribute most to society on a very basic level and those who do not and yet are rewarded exponentially. The greater question however is, why we as society accept this inequality as perfectly normal?

We say we want the best future for our children, yet we accept the people who teach them, who spend most of their day with them to work under suboptimal conditions. We say we want our children to have the best education possible, yet we accept them to go to school in moldy, dark environments and spend most of their days having to navigate grueling social hierarchies with other children with little to no adult intervention or support. Many parents obviously do not have much say in which schools their child is sent to. It is few who are able to afford the prestigious private schools that do in fact prioritize a healthy and creative learning environment.

It is however possible for us to stop accepting the denigration and devaluation of our education systems. It requires a shift in values – and it is important to understand and come to terms with the fact that the gross inequality of income does in fact reflect the values we have collectively accepted in this world. Society is not something that exists or operates outside of the scope of our influence; society is the total sum of all individuals living in it and engaging with it.

We say that we value our children, that they are the most precious to us, that we would give our lives for them. But what happens when we tacitly accept an industrial school system whose only aim is to produce functional consumers who will keep the global economy spinning? Whether we care to admit it or not, that is exactly what we are doing, as long as we accept the current development taking place in our education systems and in the political arenas that run them.

If we truly value the lives of our children, and so in affect the future of humanity, we have to reconsider what we are accepting children to learn in school. We have to look, not only at the homework assignments they are given or the curriculum, but also the school environment, the infrastructure, the working conditions of teachers and the education-industrial complex that can be argued is executing a hostile takeover of our schools – and so our children’s lives and futures.

We have to ask ourselves: are we the role models and examples that we want our children to learn from? Do our societies reflect the optimal living environment that we claim to teach our children about in school? And when we teach children about human evolution, can we in honesty say that we have evolved? That we are proud of the world we have created for ourselves? If not, then we ought to start from the beginning, from the educational environments that children are placed into almost from the moment they are born; the daycare centers, the preschools, the elementary schools and all other learning environments that a child engage in on a daily basis. Education is the most powerful tool when it comes to changing the current discourse of society. We have to be willing to ask ourselves where exactly it is the world is headed through the current values displayed in our schools?

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. This is not to say that the solution is simply to give preschool teachers a raise or to carry out a French-revolution style attack on the CEO’s and hedge fund managers of this world. There are however steps that we as citizens and parents especially can take to start changing the situation – to show that we truly value our children and stand by them to ensure that they get the best possible education. There is a reason why the children of the elite are sent to expensive Montessori schools for example, but that doesn’t mean that this form of education is only a prerogative of the elite. All over the world parent co-opted preschools are formed, home schooling is more popular than ever. At the Equal Life Foundation we support initiatives that promote a form of education effectively preparing children to face life and to grow up to become citizens, not only with excellent cognitive skills, but also with compassion, empathy and self-integrity.

We are therefore proposing a sophisticated yet non-invasive and disruptive change of our economic systems where a change of perspective and a revaluation of our economic worth as citizens can make a vast difference and effectively contravene the increasing social and economic inequality. It is a matter of making clear decisions about what our true values are in this world and acting accordingly. Every parent can become a catalyst for change through the values they present to their children and it is important to remember that these are not only the values we speak to them about, but also more importantly the values that we exemplify and reflect through our day-to-day living. If all parents decided today to become catalysts for change, to become activists on behalf of their children, we could make a difference never seen before in this world.

For more information on how you can become a catalyst of change, investigate the Living Income Guaranteed proposal.

More articles about parenting and education in a Guaranteed Living Income System:

http://livingincomeforall.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/parents-need-a-living-income-now/

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/category/parenting/

http://economistjourneytolife.blogspot.com/2014/01/day-259-living-income-guaranteed-and.html

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/the-self-perpetuating-cycle-of-homelessness-and-living-income-guaranteed/

Watch the hangout about Education for a New World in Order: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlj5wGCRnSU

 

 

 

How an Unequal Vocabulary Creates an Unequal World. 91

How an Unequal Vocabulary Creates an Unequal World. 91

unequal vocabularlyThose who have it, tend to take it for granted as a natural part of their cognitive capacities. Those who do not have it, most often are not aware of how many ‘doors to success’ gets slammed in their faces because of it. It is one of the most surreptitious mechanisms in the industrial-education-machinery as it perpetuates social and economic inequality, acting like a secret handshake that once you know it, allows you access into positions of privilege and power. It is the triteness of vocabulary.

Most of us rarely consider how the words we speak determine so much in our lives; from the ability to express oneself, to effectively communicate in relationships and how the words we know affect the social and professional opportunities that are available to us. The more expansive and comprehensive one’s vocabulary is, the more one is able to interact with, and gain access to various cultures, social circles and professional groups. What this means is that an expansive vocabulary elicits choices: the greater the vocabulary, the more access to a variety of life and living.

Imagine that life is like a big house with many rooms that each represents certain life styles or living conditions. Each room is locked and has to be opened with a key. That key is vocabulary. The more keys you have, the more rooms you can unlock; the more choices you have in life. Now – also imagine that in order to for example get access to the upper levels of the house, you first have to have a key that opens the doors to the stairwell. Without this key you are conditioned to remain on the ground level or even in the rooms of the basement. With only a few keys you have limited access to the house and as such: with a diminished vocabulary you have less social mobility.

An example of this could be how a law student during his studies at university has gained access to the vocabulary that eventually will make him a lawyer. It is the vocabulary of law that gives him the ability to one-day work as a lawyer. But even before his university education, he would have had to develop a prerequisite vocabulary that enabled him to go into law studies in the first place, for example through a high school education and even before that through developing a prerequisite vocabulary that enabled him to successfully go through high school. This process starts even before we learn our first words.

Research has shown that vocabulary development is closely linked to socioeconomic status. A 1995 study by Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley titled Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children for example showed that children from professional families heard 382 words per hour whereas children from families on welfare only heard 167 words per hour. Similarly, a 2012 study from Stanford University, revealed that already at the age of 2, children of low-income families are 6 months behind peers from professional families and that the same children at the age of 5 are more than 2 years behind when it comes to vocabulary development. This disparity in academic performance that tends to increase, as children grow older, becomes what is referred to as an achievement gap and vocabulary plays a big part in determining the opportunities children have as they grow up.

In their 2009 book Teaching vocabulary with hypermedia, Susan O’Hara and Robert Henry Pritchard highlights how the achievement gap is perpetuated because: “enriched environments promote vocabulary development. Good readers read more, which in turn helps them become even better readers with even larger vocabularies. Poor readers read less, which contributes to their becoming poorer readers with more limited vocabularies. In effect, “the rich readers get richer and the poor readers get poorer.” (n.p)

When looking at what creates the achievement gap in relation to vocabulary development, researchers often discuss the lack of cognitive stimuli that is prevalent in low-income households due to the academic, social and even emotional incapacity of parents. What is not often discussed is how that lack of stimuli and the ‘dumbing down’ it perpetuates – is generational and cyclical and that it is propagated by the very education system that claims to attempt to minimize the achievement gap.

Adults who are unable to provide their children with an expansive vocabulary have themselves not been introduced to an expansive vocabulary. It is not because they are bad parents or ill equipped at parenting, but in many instances simply because they themselves have been limited in terms of how many words they have had access to.

Parents are seen as the culprits when it comes to explaining the achievement gap and school is then supposed to be the place where children, no matter their background gain equal opportunity to make something of their lives. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. Schools are designed to be optimal learning environments for students who are good at reading, following instructions, sitting still and processing abstract and arbitrary information. In order to be successful at school, students have to be good at handling extremely high levels of noise and chaos and navigate grueling and complex social hierarchies. They have to be able to receive information passively; information that often has no relevance to their actual lives. They have to know, not only when to not ask questions – but also what questions not to ask, to stay out of trouble. Vocabulary is thus taught randomly, often without context and the development of creativity and critical thinking skills is virtually non-existent.

So as should be evident by now – it is very few people whom actually benefit from and succeed through the current educational environments and the disparity of vocabulary development plays a big part in determining the opportunities students have later in life. Because: the further children go in the education system, the further they will fall behind if they don’t fit into the cookie-cutter model of what comprises a ‘good student’.

When it comes to ‘equal opportunity’ being provided by the school system, it is hypothetical, meaning: it is something anyone in theory could have, but that not everyone in actuality has. The amount of opportunities that are available to us, are therefore inexorably determined, virtually from the moment we are born, through the ‘sins of the fathers’ where our parents lack or abundance of vocabulary and social mobility will be directly transferred to us. The school system further perpetuates this, tacitly as well as explicitly by promoting socioeconomic segregation through its very structures.

The problem with a diminished development of vocabulary is however not only that it causes a segregation between individuals into different classes in society; it is also creates a stark disadvantage for the majority of people who do not have access to professional vocabularies for example within law or medicine. When most people seek out medical advice they do not have the same vocabulary as a doctor, which means that the doctor for all intents and purposes knows more about their body than they do. Because of his advanced vocabulary when it comes to medicine, he is therefore an authority on their body and without any ability to cross-reference the information being given to them; most people credulously accept what they are being told. How many people for example read through legal agreements before signing them? Consider for example the 2007 subprime loan mortgage crisis[i] that left thousands of people in the US homeless due to having agreed to taking mortgages on their houses that were in no way viable. Or how, when advertisers cleverly use a combination of words and images designed to evoke specific emotional responses, most people do not realize that they subconsciously respond to the predictive programming within an urge to buy something they don’t actually need.

The diminished development of vocabulary is therefore an overarching societal problem that polemically, can be argued is socially engineered to widen, not only the achievement gap between the elite and the general population, but also to placate the general population into a permanent state of apathy. Journalist Chris Hedges describes in his 2009 book Empire of illusion: the end of literacy and the triumph of spectacle how:

Functional illiteracy in North America is epidemic. There are 7 million illiterate Americans. Another 27 million are unable to read well enough to complete a job application, and 30 million can’t read a simple sentence. There are some 50 million people who read at a fourth-or-fifth-grade-level. Nearly a third of he nation’s population is literate or barely literate – a figure that is growing by more than 2 million a year. A third of high-school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives, and neither do 42 percent of college graduates. (P. 44)

This epidemic of functional illiteracy is not happening because people are stupid or lazy; it is happening because the school-system is, as John Taylor Gatto puts it in the title of his 1992 book: Dumbing us down.

Gatto argues that the incessant dumbing down of children is deliberately built into the mechanics of the school-system specifically because: “… the very stability of our economy is threatened by any form of education that might change the nature of the human product schools now turn out: the economy school-children currently expect to live under and serve would not survive a generation of young people trained, for example, to think critically”. (p. xxxv)

Gatto’s critique of the deliberate dumbing down taking place in the school-system stands in stark contrast to the propagandized call for competition in the battle of the global economy where schools arm their students with knowledge as weapons to fight for survival on the global market. Gatto says:

What is currently under discussion in our national hysteria about failing academic performance misses the point. Schools teach exactly what they are intended to teach and they do it well: how to be a good Egyptian and remain in your place in the pyramid. None of this is inevitable. None of it is impossible to overthrow. We do have choices in how we bring up young people: there is no one right way. If we broke through the power of the pyramidical illusion we would see that. There is no life-and-death international competition threatening our national existence, difficult as the idea is even to think about, let alone believe, in the face of a continual media barrage of myth to the contrary. (P.14)

Competition in the global economy is presented as though it is an absolute and as though it in itself justifies a school system that bases its entire foundation on the premise of the survival of the fittest. If your parents are uneducated and cannot help you with your homework, it is just too bad. If you can’t keep up in class, then shut up or apply for a vocational program so society can at least make some use of your human capital.

One of the perhaps greatest secrets when it comes to subverting the inequality and dumbing down promulgated within and through the education system is that every single human being born on this planet has a natural ability to learn.

The physiological conditions of a human body in terms of it ability to learn is largely equal among the majority of the earth’s population. Obviously Poverty, pollution, poor nutrition and physical abuse are examples of environmental factors that affect an individual’s capacity to harness their natural learning ability and there are small minorities of people who suffer from such physical and neurological disablement that their capacity to learn is diminished. However – generally speaking, everyone has a natural ability to learn equally based on his or her individual capacities – and therefore ought to develop an equally expansive vocabulary. There is no reason why schools should not be structured so that everyone learns to the best of their abilities. It can therefore be argued that inequality is deliberately perpetuated through the school-system and by the society that endorses it through its structures.

Returning to the allegory of life being a house with its rooms representing various living conditions and opportunities in life and vocabulary being the keys to opening the doors to those rooms: what all of this means is that very few people have access to all the rooms in the house. These are the people that go to the best schools and colleges. These people, because they have more mobility and because they know the ins and outs of the house, therefore also have the power to manipulate and control those with less access. Those who live in the basement for example, in dirty and dark rooms, are conditioned to believe that there are no other ways for them to live. They are conditioned to believe that this is their fate, that they belong in the basement or as it may be in reality: the poverty-stricken neighborhoods and shantytowns around the world. However, there are no logical or natural reasons why some have access to the entire house while others are confined to a few rooms.

The solution is thus to provide everyone with equal access to the house that we call life, with vocabulary being the key that, if given to everyone will, not only make equal opportunity a reality but also empower individuals with the ability to subvert the subjugating system that paralyzes them into apathy and inequality on a global level.

An equal vocabulary would level the playing field, so that no one can use cognitive disinformation and predictive programming to manipulate others into submission.

Understanding the world we live in, from the legal agreements we sign, to the ingredient lists on our medicine bottles and the foods that we eat, is imperative for us to become sovereign individuals who are able to make informed and educated decisions about our lives. It is equally imperative for the transformation of our education systems from being systems of enslavement that produce consumer-citizens that acts as cogs in the wheels of capitalism, to a system that supports individuals to become authorities in their own lives who are able to take equal responsibility for the world we all share. Obviously not everyone would have to know the entire medical library, the names of each tiny part in a car’s motor or every single law – but without even being able to read or understand the most basic information that affect our lives, we are as individuals in gravely disadvantageous positions because a part of the world is closed off to us – we cannot access it without the key of vocabulary. As such, vocabulary is used to control and segregate millions of people into poverty and unemployment, simply because they do not have access to the words that is required to participate in a certain field or profession. Obviously vocabulary is not the only factor involved in perpetuating poverty and inequality, but it plays a significant role that most often is entirely overlooked.

As adults, and as parents in particular, it is our responsibility to support children to develop and expand their vocabulary through expanding our own. This is essential as it will provide children with the self-integrity, confidence and critical assessment skills required to grow up and become adults who can not only make actual real choices about their own lives, but also become empowered in such a way that changing the world will no longer just be empty words uttered in a desperate hope of a different future, but something that they take upon themselves with absolute unwavering determination.

Our world is made up of the words we know and without knowing the words; we do not know the world. But there is no reason that not everyone should have equal access to the words that make up the world and as such be able to direct it to an outcome that is best for all life. If nothing else, that is what education should provide.

“Truth is that we all need facts we cannot continue to eat only the food that is given to us. Sometimes we have to feed ourselves otherwise we set our self up for dependency on the wrong nutrition without realizing that we were being poisoned the whole time.” – R. Lewis

If you are ready to get involved in a political and economic change of paradigms and thereby also a change of our education systems, I invite you to investigate the Equal Life Foundation’s proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income System. This proposal suggests a groundbreaking change in political paradigms that doesn’t ‘take sides’ but instead presents a completely new approach to solving the problems we are currently facing in this world.

Re-Educate yourself here:

A couple of weeks ago I was part of the panel on a Live Google Hangout about the Common Core standards initiative. I definitely recommend watching it.

The Ultimate History Lesson with John Taylor Gatto:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQiW_l848t8

PROPAGANDA | FULL ENGLISH VERSION (2012)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NMr2VrhmFI

The Century of the Self
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7EwXmxpExw

Psywar
http://metanoia-films.org/psywar/

The Trap
http://archive.org/details/AdamCurtis_TheTrap

The Power Principle
http://metanoia-films.org/the-power-principle/

Human Resources: Social Engineering in the 20th Century
http://metanoia-films.org/human-resources/

The Story of Your Enslavement
http://youtu.be/Xbp6umQT58A

Blind Spot
https://vimeo.com/30559203

Inequality for all documentary:
http://www.putlocker.to/watch-inequality-for-all-online-free-putlocker.html

The Four Horsemen:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fbvquHSPJU

On Advertisement and the end of the world:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8gM0Q58iP0

Third World America – Chris Hedges
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drZE65_134g

More articles about parenting and education in a Guaranteed Living Income System:

http://livingincomeforall.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/parents-need-a-living-income-now/

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/category/parenting/

http://economistjourneytolife.blogspot.com/2014/01/day-259-living-income-guaranteed-and.html

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/the-self-perpetuating-cycle-of-homelessness-and-living-income-guaranteed/

Watch the hangout about Education for a New World in Order: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlj5wGCRnSU

Sources:

Gatto, John Taylor. Dumbing us down: the hidden curriculum of compulsory schooling. Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1992. Print.

Hara, Susan, and Robert Henry Pritchard. Teaching vocabulary with hypermedia, 6-12. Boston: Allyn & Bacon/Pearson, 2009. Print.

http://news.stanford.edu/news/2013/september/toddler-language-gap-091213.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/10046877/Success-at-three-Rs-leads-to-better-job.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/9820261/Parents-struggling-with-primary-school-maths-homework.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/8013859.stm

http://www.education.com/reference/article/socioeconomic-status-vocabulary-development/

[i] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subprime_mortgage_crisis

The Puppetry of Puberty and its Traumatic Rites of Passage. 90

The Puppetry of Puberty and its Traumatic Rites of Passage. 90

Teenager rite of passageGoing from child to adult is a process that in ancient times was celebrated as a sacred ‘rite of passage’. Sociologically speaking, the rites of passage are designed to symbolically integrate the child or young adult into the adult world/tripe or social group. In indigenous tribes, boys would will for example be prompted to hunt and kill an animal before he would be considered a ‘man’ and thereby carry on the traditions of the tribe. The rituals mark the transition of the child to full membership of the group or culture. Research on the purpose and subsequent psychological effects that rites of passage has on an individual, has shown that the initiations produce cognitive dissonance where the individual who is initiated afterwards embrace the group more easily and as such serve the purpose of strengthening the initiates affiliation with the group. (Aronson and Mills, 1959, Durkheim, 2001)

Today the rites of passage from childhood to adult life, stretches from that which is now defined as the ‘pre-teen’ or ‘tween’ period, where children as young as 9 or 10 (some even younger) starts entering into puberty – and lasts until the young adult’s 18.th birthday. It is for many, a very long, traumatizing and horrific period that come to gravely affect the adults we become.

Most of us can relate to the experience of being relatively happy and content as a children, not really caring about how we look or how smart or cool we are, to suddenly enter into a virtual war zone of hormones, brutal social hierarchies, uncontrollable changes of one’s body and a general feeling of not belonging and never being good enough. For some it starts abruptly the day we turn 12 or 13 or when we enter into Junior high or high school, for others it is a feeling that comes creeping or suddenly without warning, where everything you thought you knew were real and trustworthy – becomes dangerous and deceitful.

Every single day we hear stories about people who were traumatized due to their experiences as teenagers and without exaggerating, we may very well be facing a generation of young adults all suffering from post-traumatic-stress-syndrome in some way or another due to this. Have a look at the following statistics from various sources[i] on the current mental state of youth in the United States:

Among high school students, 44% of girls and 15% of guys are attempting to lose weight.

More than 40% of boys in middle school and high school regularly exercise with the goal of increasing muscle mass.

75% of girls with low self-esteem reported engaging in negative activities like cutting, bullying, smoking, drinking, or disordered eating. This compares to 25% of girls with high self-esteem.

About 20% of teens will experience depression before they reach adulthood. Teen girls that have a negative view of themselves are 4 times more likely to take part in activities with boys that they’ve ended up regretting later.

The top wish among all teen girls is for their parents to communicate better with them. This includes frequent and more open conversations.

38% of boys in middle school and high school reported using protein supplements and nearly 6% admitted to experimenting with steroids.

7 in 10 girls believe that they are not good enough or don’t measure up in some way, including their looks, performance in school and relationships with friends and family members.

When children begin the rite of passage towards becoming adults, approximately at the age of 13, they are for all intents and purposes all alone in the world. The majority cannot speak openly or intimately with their parents, partly because such communication has never been taught to anyone in our societies and partly because the lives of young adults – what matters most to them – is so remarkably different from the life and values of their parents. Their peers are in the exact same chaotic process of being bombarded with hormonal and cultural changes that is pressuring them to ‘mature’.

The following are three examples of how children and young adults are introduced to ‘adult life’, as rites of passage they go through, that has devastating consequences for the adults they grow up to be:

Alcohol

Firstly, the adult world that young people are introduced to at this age, is for the most part not a world of sound principles teaching them how to develop self-integrity and critical reasoning skills. It is a world that celebrates alcohol as the socially accepted but highly toxic substance that is supposed to ‘loosen you up’ and become ‘sociable’ – because no one has taught you how to do that simply by expressing yourself in self-trust. Alcohol is marketed to children and teenagers on a daily basis, none the least by adults who, themselves consume alcohol regularly. A study done in 2010 by a group of scientists including Britain’s Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD) and an expert adviser to the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) created a scale to measure the most dangerous drugs in the world actually found alcohol to be the single most dangerous drug in the world when measured according to the effects on the body as well as the social and personal consequences of alcohol consumption. [ii]

Porn

Secondly, the world that young people are introduced to is a world that celebrates hardcore pornography for which there is hardly any legislation or regulation. This means that young boys between the ages of 11 and 18 are now the core group of consumers of pornographic material and if you are not aware of what it is they are actually watching, I can tell you that it is not the soft erotic images of 1970’s pornographic. It is brutal, abusive, misogynistic, degrading and delusional porn. And if that was not bad enough, it is from porn that many children have their first encounters with what sex is supposed to be, what sex is supposed to feel like and look like. Porn therefore – become integrated into a child’s mind as the education on sex that his elders were supposed to have given him during his rite of passage. Because of this development, we are seen an increasing amount of criminal cases – all around the world – where children and teenagers rape, kill or sexually abuse other children and even adults. We’re seeing an increasing amount of cases of gang- and mass-rape by adults on young women. [iii]

Consumerism

Finally, the third rite of passage that children through as they start entering into adult life, is an introduction to becoming ‘independent and individual’ consumers. The youngsters start having access to money and while many have already been bottle-fed with commercials and advertisements during their childhood, the teenage years is where they are targeted more fiercely than ever, because they are in the process of developing identities and personalities and most importantly – to try and fit into the social hierarchy – causing them to desperately search for that secret ingredient that can secure them at place on top of the social pyramid. This is the perfect hunting ground for profit-hungry marketers and they should know because to some extent, they created the never-ending demand for the latest new trend in technology, fashion and beauty-care products.

The rites of passage that young people go through in today’s western societies can thus be seen as facilitated, almost predominantly, by the consumer system – and as parents and other elders are already inoculated into these systems, they tacitly support this transition. Some parents may try to introduce other values or principles into their child’s life, but because our lives are so dominated by the consumer system, most parents find themselves speaking to deaf ears and the young adult will in many instances dismiss the parents’ attempts as irrelevant and of little importance. (Here it is also relevant to reiterate the fact that children learn more from what we do than what we say.)

Alcohol and porn consumption, as well as a proliferation of consumer behavior is obviously something that adults engage in frequently, but it is also strongly endorsed by the media and advertisement industries and the laws on these areas are conspicuous to say the least, by their absence. There are of course also ’formal’ rites of passage such as gaining a driving license or graduating from high school, however it is for most young adults the informal rites that come to shape their identities and choices in life, through the intense promulgation of these rites in the media and through a tacit collective infatuation with them.

These rites of passage; alcohol and porn consumption and consumer behaviors are examples of initiation processes into a specific culture and a subsequent internal affiliation with this culture, through which the young adult come to see and identify him or herself. The main virtues and values of this culture are: entertainment, pleasure, stimulation, escape, freedom from responsibility and happiness. That is what makes us so attracted to it; the promise of freedom and happiness and instant gratification. But seldom do we discuss the anxiety, the delusions, the addictions or the total and utter disconnection from one’s own being that this culture also propagates.

Having a look at the kind of human beings that come out of the rites of passage of consumer capitalism, it is no wonder that the current state of the world is in such dire straits. These are supposed to be the formative years where the child as the caterpillar goes through a metamorphosis and comes out as a butterfly on the other side of their teenage years, fully-grown and functional in their capacity as human beings. We become what we make of ourselves and that process of ‘making’ is most prominently enforced during the teenage and pubescent years. Unfortunately we take these rites of passage for granted, but even more so: we celebrate them, we reminisce over them and we glorify them in our movies and advertisements. We seldom discuss what they reflect back to in ourselves and how the virtues we celebrate are affecting our collective state as humanity. We seldom consider or admit to ourselves that it would be possible to do things differently.

Biologically speaking, in the years where the child becomes a teenager, much is happening within the physical body. The body becomes sexually mature and lots are happening both on a neurological and an endocrinal level. This therefore ought to be a period where the young adult becomes familiar and intimate with their own physical body and rather than being introduced to brutal and disjunctive images of physically augmented adults having sex, should get to know how their body works and understand what changes they are going through. This is not to say that sexuality or sexual expression should be kept within the privacy of the child’s own life, but that this process ought to unfold naturally in the tempo of the child’s individual development, with the support of adults who are self-educated to the point of being able to communicate and share information without shame and judgments. It also ought to be a time where they young adult starts focusing on discovering what they are passionate about in life, because they now have the neurological capacity for more abstract cognitive functions and as such are able to integrate information and reflect on it to a greater extent.

Spending all your time with people the same age in a school system that is highly insensitive to individual expression and that promotes brutal competition through the rites of passage that we have discussed here, are not the best place for someone in that sometimes very vulnerable phase of becoming an adult. Some youngsters can handle it and some even enjoy it, but for many it is a traumatic and devastating experience, that not only lasts several years, but that they also do not have any choice but to comply with. Teenagers become isolated, despondent, aggressive, suicidal, homicidal, promiscuous, anorexic and severely depressed, all because of their entry into the rites of passage of what we call puberty. We blame these experiences on the hormonal changes they go through, because after all: we’ve been there ourselves. But what we don’t realize (because we’re the product of the same brainwashing that we’re now subjecting them to) is that this has all been orchestrated with intent. Teenagers are broken down and torn apart only to be built up again as inflated, intoxicated versions of themselves who have long forgotten that they once embodied an authentic self-expression, a true joy over being alive, and a passion to make something meaningful of their lives – who in relief of being done ‘serving the sentence’ of childhood, ‘happily’ embrace an adult life of pseudo-freedom.

If we want to have any chance of changing this world, we have to start with what we are subjecting our children and young adults to. We have to stop taking these rites of passage that we’ve come to accept as ‘normal’ and ‘natural’ for granted and start providing alternatives that will support the youngsters to grow up to become whole human beings. The teenage years of a person’s life could be the most amazing, educational and creative years, where each person is supported to discover their full potential and begin the process of forming themselves as responsible members of society. But this is not possible in the current system and parents as well as teachers and any and all adults have direct responsibility for this. If we would not want anyone to go through the experiences that we went through as a children and teenagers, why then accept it as normal and natural for the children growing up now? Why take it for granted? Why not envision new rites of passage where youngsters could be introduced into adulthood in ways that would be supportive and nurturing for them to become their utmost potential?

If you are ready to get involved in a political and economic change of paradigms and thereby also a change of our education systems, I invite you to investigate the Equal Life Foundation’s proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income System. This proposal suggests a groundbreaking change in political paradigms that doesn’t ‘take sides’ but instead presents a completely new approach to solving the problems we are currently facing in this world.

Re-Educate yourself here:

A couple of weeks ago I was part of the panel on a Live Google Hangout about the Common Core standards initiative. I definitely recommend watching it.

The Ultimate History Lesson with John Taylor Gatto:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQiW_l848t8

PROPAGANDA | FULL ENGLISH VERSION (2012)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NMr2VrhmFI

The Century of the Self
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7EwXmxpExw

Psywar
http://metanoia-films.org/psywar/

The Trap
http://archive.org/details/AdamCurtis_TheTrap

The Power Principle
http://metanoia-films.org/the-power-principle/

Human Resources: Social Engineering in the 20th Century
http://metanoia-films.org/human-resources/

The Story of Your Enslavement
http://youtu.be/Xbp6umQT58A

Blind Spot
https://vimeo.com/30559203

Inequality for all documentary:
http://www.putlocker.to/watch-inequality-for-all-online-free-putlocker.html

The Four Horsemen:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fbvquHSPJU

On Advertisement and the end of the world:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8gM0Q58iP0

Third World America – Chris Hedges
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drZE65_134g

More articles about parenting and education in a Guaranteed Living Income System:

http://livingincomeforall.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/parents-need-a-living-income-now/

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/category/parenting/

http://economistjourneytolife.blogspot.com/2014/01/day-259-living-income-guaranteed-and.html

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/the-self-perpetuating-cycle-of-homelessness-and-living-income-guaranteed/

Watch the hangout about Education for a New World in Order: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlj5wGCRnSU

[i] Neuman, M.D., Fredric. “Low Self-esteem.” Psychology Today. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fighting-fear/201304/low-self-esteem.

Council On Alcoholism And Drug Abuse. “Image and Self Esteem.” Mentor Resource Center. Accessed March 3, 2014. http://mentor-center.org/image-and-self-esteem/.

“Brands in Action: Dove.” Unilever USA. http://www.unileverusa.com/brands-in-action/detail/Dove-/298217/.

Quenqua, Douglas. “Muscular Body Image Lures Boys Into Gym, and Obsession.” The New York Times. Accessed March 3, 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/19/health/teenage-boys-worried-about-body-image-take-risks.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.

PR Newswire Association LLC. . “New National Report Reveals the High Price of Low Self-Esteem.” Dove Self-Esteem Fund. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-national-report-reveals-the-high-price-of-low-self-esteem-65355592.html.

Borchard, Therese J.. “Why are so Many Teens Depressed?.” Psychcentral. http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2010/03/04/why-are-so-many-teens-depressed/.

Council On Alcoholism And Drug Abuse. “Image and Self Esteem.” Mentor Resource Center. Accessed March 3, 2014. http://mentor-center.org/image-and-self-esteem/.

Shapiro, Hannah. “Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty boosts girls’ self-esteem for Back to School.” Examiner.com. Accessed March 3, 2014. http://www.examiner.com/article/dove-s-campaign-for-real-beauty-boosts-girls-self-esteem-for-back-to-school.

Quenqua, Douglas. “Muscular Body Image Lures Boys Into Gym, and Obsession.” The New York Times. Accessed March 3, 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/19/health/teenage-boys-worried-about-body-image-take-risks.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.

Shapiro, Hannah. “Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty boosts girls’ self-esteem for Back to School.” Examiner.com. Accessed March 3, 2014. http://www.examiner.com/article/dove-s-campaign-for-real-beauty-boosts-girls-self-esteem-for-back-to-school.

Linton, Melissa. “Teens & self-esteem: Your teen’s self-esteem dependent on you.” Examiner.com. Accessed March 3, 2014. http://www.examiner.com/article/teens-self-esteem-your-teen-s-self-esteem-dependent-on-you.

[ii] http://uk.reuters.com/article/2010/11/01/us-drugs-alcohol-idUKTRE6A000O20101101

[iii] http://www.atvod.co.uk/news-consultations/news-consultationsnews/Atvod-publishes-research-showing-scale-of-underage-access-to-adult-websites

Expropriating the Value of Work through Play. 89

Expropriating the Value of Work through Play. 89

In the last post titled Arbeit Macht Frei… Or does it? On reclaiming the Value of our Work. 88 we discussed the word Work in relation to Work in its purest form being an expression of each individual’s unique skills and abilities and how the notion of Work as it is currently manifested and defined has become something obscured that subjugates the individual into unnatural living conditions. In this post we are continuing the discussion from where we left of, now focusing on the situation of the child in his or her educational environment and how the expropriation of Work starts already in childhood with a distinct separation between ‘work’ and ‘play’.

”Toys” are built on fantasy, not the real world of things that are connected with the process of true natural development. (…) If you want to train children to become weak, dependent, victim adults, capable of only imitating and follow routine directions from others, unable to think responsibly for themselves, then certainly you would want to feed them a steady stream of toys and fantasy. However, if your vision and hope for a world goes above that “victim” state of slavery in the world, then give them real objects to concentrate and develop mental order that prepares them to think effectively for themselves. This later “work” oriented preparation for children is the path I would choose for all. “ Quote: Lee Havis, Executive Director at International Montessori Society from a discussion on LinkedIn

Exactly as our work as adults becomes something that is separate from us, something that we must sell in order to buy back resources to sustain ourselves, so do we teach children that their activities are separate from ‘real life’ and we instead endow them with a fantasy life through which they then are taught to detach themselves from reality. We teach them that they are not good enough or skilled enough – or even important or worthy enough – to participate in activities that matter. (To be clear, we’re here specifically discussing children and work in the Western World.) Often the justification on the part of the parent or the general adult will be that we don’t have time to do things with a child in hand and so any and all activity involving real life issues such as cooking or cleaning will be done without the child. Or we complain that it is the child that does not want to participate in spite of us prompting them to join in, not realizing how at that point the child has already become conditioned to prefer fantasy over reality due to our examples to them not being clear, concise and commonsensical.

Adults are the result of a perpetuating process of brainwashing that teaches us that our survival is contingent upon a constant chasing of and keeping up with the momentum of the hamster wheel that is our daily lives. As adults we exist within a tightly squeezed continuum between past, present and future, stuck in minds constantly calculating minutes, hours and days while weighing wants, needs and desires against costs and expenses. There is no room for the unconditional and immediate expression of a child in that way of thinking. Children – at least when they are young – do not feel burdened or pressured by time. When they walk, they do so in an ever-patient expression of curiosity and discovery like pioneers embarking on a journey into a new land. They take everything in while occasionally stopping up as they become enthralled by a bug or with a question about how birds know where south is when they see them migrate over the sky. When children bake, they want to feel the flour, taste the salt, smell the yeast and throw the dough all at once and as adults we simply don’t have the patience for that kind of exercise, (unless we are particularly educationally inclined or by chance haven’t lost sight with that part of ourselves that is still curious about life.) Instead we’re already several hours a head in our minds and while the little ones chirp away about cookie dough monsters, we think about the flour we’ll have to sweep up and how much of a hassle it is to have the child with us in the kitchen and how much easier it would be to park the child in front of the TV while we bake those spelt buns that will make us look like the wholesome parents we so desperately want to be.

There are thus two reasons why we as adults promote fantasy over reality when it comes to our children: one being that we do not exist in reality ourselves and so can’t handle being in reality with our children and the other being that this is how we’ve deliberately programmed our reality where we do not want children to be integrated into reality, but instead want them to become detached and favorable towards a fantasy life that will ensure their acceptance of being separated from the value of their expression as that which we call Work. You and I may not do it consciously, but we have collectively participated in creating a society that does so incessantly, especially through the media and the consumerist system.

As Havis so clearly mentioned the quote shared above, children when they are young, would much rather be a part of real life than playing with toys but in the traditional educational and parenting environment we fail to see this to such a degree that we automatically assume that they prefer toys. We have become so accustomed to taking toys for granted as a normal part of a child’s life growing up that we even fail to recognize how much toys and games that children interact with and partake in are simulations of real life. A prominent example is when children play house or when they play with plastic kitchens the complementary plastic food. They’re simulating a reality that they are prohibited from partaking in.

So as we have been separated and have separated ourselves from our own work as the expression of our unique individual abilities, we have made work something forced that we are subjugated to, while ’play’ or ’free time’ is where we consider ourselves ’free to express’. It is then the exact same division that we are teaching to our children; that work inherently is something one has to do and that one is separated from and have no say over whereas play is where one can be oneself so to speak. What is inherent in ‘play’ as it is being separated from work, as Havis also mentions is that it is simulated, artificial and based on fantasy. It thus supports children to invent and exist in fantasy realities and quickly starts experiencing reality and real life as ‘boring’, ‘tedious’ and something that is forced upon them by adults. There is in essence nothing ‘wrong’ with simulations, it is the division between ‘real life’ and ‘fantasy’ that is the problem and so also the division between ‘work’ and ‘play’. What we fail to realize is that this dichotomy is a socially engineered strategy enforced by ruthless (and equally indoctrinated) marketing executives and others involved in profiting from the consumerist system. It teaches us to accept and normalize the conditions we are subjected to where our work is not an expression of our value or ourselves as human beings and where we literally have to buy ‘free time’ through selling our labor. That ‘free time’ is then again another artificial sphere where we are being prompted and impulse to prefer certain ‘pastimes’ that supports the wheels of consumerism to keep turning and that keep us enclosed with limited opportunities to express and realize our true potential. One simply has to look at what do people like to do when they’re ‘off’ work and it becomes evident how placated we have become as the worker bees of consumer capitalism. From watching TV to drinking alcohol and shopping, there is little to no development or expansion of a true and valuable expression.

The solution is twofold in that we simultaneously have to work on changing the conditions we have enslaved ourselves to as well as educate and re-educate ourselves to start valuing our work as an expression of our value and unique abilities through which we best can support society as a whole to thrive.

A subject such as math could be taught through students driving out and fixing broken fences on a farmer’s land or through cooking nutritious school meals for their class. Instead of playing with plastic dolls children could have sessions of interaction with babies or even with elderly people, which is something that research has shown that both children and elderly benefits greatly from. If Work, real valuable work would be implemented into a child’s education and daily life, I am sure that children would naturally grow and develop an interest in and passion for education. Education wouldn’t be a bubble separate from rest of society with meaningless tasks and projects, completely disconnected from rest of reality. What we are thus perpetuating in children when we prohibit them from participating in real life activities and instead encourage them to seek meaning in simulated and virtual realities are fractioned identities and low self-esteem resulting in children growing up without respect for themselves or the environment they are a part of. How is anyone supposed to care for, be passionate about or take responsibility for a world that they were never allowed to engage in? How are children supposed to become sovereign and independent adults when we do not even entrust them with learning the basic skills of life?

Have a look at a small child walking down the street with their mother or father. You will see the child walking in a pace that suits the physical body, a pace that is slow enough for the child to observe and interact with its environment as well as its own physical body. The child will stop up, smell the roses, pet a dog, and look in awe after a fire truck. The adult on the other hand will be rushed, stressed or distracted by whatever catches their eye on their cell phone. They will yank the child, blame the child, yell at the child for making them late so that the wheels of their life can keep turning in a pace way too hasty for any natural expression to be explored or developed. The child will soon learn the negative consequences that come with following its natural expression and to please the adult and to stay out of trouble it will adapt its pace to follow the adult and it will retreat into itself and keep its expression out of harms way. But we are fortunately enough immensely resilient creatures and that means that although our natural expression may be dormant in a deep state of hibernation and suppressed, it still exists within us, even as adults. And this is why most of us are so unsatisfied and feel trapped, depressed, hopeless and angry about our life and living situation, especially when it comes to work. This is why we drink and do drugs and prefer sitting in front of the TV rather than going out there and getting our hands dirty. Because what is the point? The point is that, if we do not want our children to grow up losing the spark that makes them light up the world as they do when they are young, we are going to have to dedicate ourselves to, not only reigniting that same spark within ourselves but to dare to step into a process of changing the world systems and stop the wheels of consumer capitalism from spinning us straight from cradle to grave. There is a different way. There is a solution. Living Income Guaranteed. It is a proposal for a system that will enable us to, for the first time in the history of mankind, become the sovereign authorities of our own Work and so through that be able to contribute to creating a society that truly is Best for All and give our lives the meaning and purpose that we have longed for since we were children. Because as we all know, there is nothing more rewarding than contributing to creating something valuable and useful out of nothing. Giving our lives real meaning, purpose and value is what we all long for. For the benefit of all of humanity and for the potential for life on earth to thrive in ways we have never thought possible, there is thus no greater lesson to teach a child: that the Value of our Lives, is Life and that through Work we can express ourselves as that Value and so honor ourselves as Life.

This post was written in continuation to the following series of blog-posts

Re-Educate yourself here:

A couple of weeks ago I was part of the panel on a Live Google Hangout about the Common Core standards initiative. I definitely recommend watching it.

The Ultimate History Lesson with John Taylor Gatto:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQiW_l848t8

PROPAGANDA | FULL ENGLISH VERSION (2012)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NMr2VrhmFI

The Century of the Self
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7EwXmxpExw

Psywar
http://metanoia-films.org/psywar/

The Trap
http://archive.org/details/AdamCurtis_TheTrap

The Power Principle
http://metanoia-films.org/the-power-principle/

Human Resources: Social Engineering in the 20th Century
http://metanoia-films.org/human-resources/

The Story of Your Enslavement
http://youtu.be/Xbp6umQT58A

Blind Spot
https://vimeo.com/30559203

Inequality for all documentary:
http://www.putlocker.to/watch-inequality-for-all-online-free-putlocker.html

The Four Horsemen:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fbvquHSPJU

On Advertisement and the end of the world:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8gM0Q58iP0

Third World America – Chris Hedges
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drZE65_134g

More articles about parenting and education in a Guaranteed Living Income System:

http://livingincomeforall.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/parents-need-a-living-income-now/

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/category/parenting/

http://economistjourneytolife.blogspot.com/2014/01/day-259-living-income-guaranteed-and.html

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/the-self-perpetuating-cycle-of-homelessness-and-living-income-guaranteed/

Watch the hangout about Education for a New World in Order: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlj5wGCRnSU

 

Arbeit Macht Frei… Or does it? On reclaiming the Value of our Work. 88

Arbeit Macht Frei… Or does it? On reclaiming the Value of our Work. 88

Work. It is a word that we all know too well. For some the word Work may produce a bitter and metallic aftertaste, whereas to others the word Work makes the word Freedom palatable. The word Work is drenched in and infused with innumerable historical references. It easily brings images to the forefront of the sign above the gates of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz that famously proclaimed that “Arbeit Macht Frei.” Work makes you free. But for the prisoners of Auschwitz who, drenched in the sweat of their slave labor, bent the metals to form the letters of these words, there was no freedom in sight, only death.

Work, in its basic definition means ”An activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a result”. (Source: the Oxford dictionary). Work is the place we go to every day, not because we want to, but because we have to. That is what we tell our children. We use the word Work to explain why we are not there with them. Work. It is where we can fulfill our need to succeed and prove ourselves worthy in the eyes of the world through that which we call a career. Work. It is where mothers break their backs cleaning other people’s floors and where fathers risk their lives having mountains fall on them to extract the metals and minerals that give other people status by virtue of the price of their jewelry. Work. It is where children as young as two start carrying the rocks that will become their mortal destiny and where those more fortunate at the ripe age of eighteen can dream and envision all the possibilities that life has to offer through Work. It is where you dream big or go home to your TV dinner.

When we investigate the origin of the word Work and its lexemes, a depth beneath the surface emerges and it is like the word becomes breathable again rather than being something that suffocates us with the weight of its morbid legacy.

 work (n.)

Old English weorc, worc “something done, discreet act performed by someone, action (whether voluntary or required), proceeding, business; that which is made or manufactured, products of labor,” also “physical labor, toil; skilled trade, craft, or occupation; opportunity of expending labor in some useful or remunerative way;” also “military fortification,” from Proto-Germanic *werkan (cognates: Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Dutch werk, Old Norse verk, Middle Dutch warc, Old High German werah, German Werk, Gothic gawaurki), from PIE *werg-o-, from root *werg- “to do” (see organ).

Work is less boring than amusing oneself. [Baudelaire, “Mon Coeur mis a nu,” 1862]

In Old English, the noun also had the sense of “fornication.” Meaning “physical effort, exertion” is from c.1200; meaning “scholarly labor” or its productions is from c.1200; meaning “artistic labor” or its productions is from c.1200. Meaning “labor as a measurable commodity” is from c.1300. Meaning “embroidery, stitchery, needlepoint” is from late 14c. Work of art attested by 1774 as “artistic creation,” earlier (1728) “artifice, production of humans (as opposed to nature).” Work ethic recorded from 1959. To be out of work “unemployed” is from 1590s. To make clean work of is from c.1300; to make short work of is from 1640s. Proverbial expression many hands make light work is from c.1300. To have (one’s) work cut out for one is from 1610s; to have it prepared and prescribed, hence, to have all one can handle. Work in progress is from 1930 in a general sense, earlier as a specific term in accountancy and parliamentary procedure.

work (v.)

a fusion of Old English wyrcan (past tense worhte, past participle geworht) “prepare, perform, do, make, construct, produce; strive after” (from Proto-Germanic *wurkijan); and Old English wircan (Mercian) “to operate, function, set in motion,” a secondary verb formed relatively late from Proto-Germanic noun *werkan (see work (n.)). Sense of “perform physical labor” was in Old English, as was sense “ply one’s trade” and “exert creative power, be a creator.” Transitive sense “manipulate (physical substances) into a desired state or form” was in Old English. Meaning “have the expected or desired effect” is from late 14c. In Middle English also “perform sexually” (mid-13c.). Related: Worked (15c.); working. To work up “excite” is from c.1600. To work over “beat up, thrash” is from 1927. To work against “attempt to subvert” is from late 14c. (Source: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=work)

The old Germanic and Norse word ’Werk’ as a noun means ’creation’ and as a verb means ’to create’ or ‘to craft’. The word Work thus, in the essence of its roots refer to the basic human activity with the purpose of producing a desired outcome or result. Work is how we each individually contribute to the life we all share; it is through Work we give our lives meaning and purpose. Work is the expression of creation where we mold and shape our reality to optimize our lives and living conditions. Work is where each individual is able to express his or her unique abilities and passion. Our work as it exists today however, has been tied to money and with that has been severed from its root. The ambiguity embodied within the word Work reveals the gut wrenching fact that most of us experience on a daily basis: That what was supposed to be how we each contribute to a life that is best for all through our individual and unique expression has been turned into something subjugated.

There is something unnatural about having to work for a living and having to buy back a life that we never bought in the first place. This essentially means that we were born as slaves. Have a look at a heart for example; a heart’s work is to pump the blood around in the body to give the organism the beat that keeps it alive. The heart is not a slave; it works unconditionally to support the whole that is the body. It expresses itself in the way that it can best support the whole organism to thrive. Look at a tree; it is the tree’s work to make the earth breathable through transforming carbon dioxide into oxygen. No one has paid the tree to do the work that it is uniquely qualified to do. It does it through an innate understanding of its contribution to the ecosystem that makes the earth thrive and so in affect, itself. Each of us are able to develop unique skills and abilities through which we can support each other and ourselves to thrive. This is what Work should be. Work has been turned into something unnatural where we work for something else, for someone else to serve their needs and their agenda that in many cases has little to nothing to do with supporting the whole to thrive. We are taught that work is what will make us free, but that freedom has to be bought at the expense on someone elses labor. That is not freedom. We sell our expression to buy it back with interests. That is not Life. The time has come for us to redefine work as the true value of our expression it should have been where we can each most passionately contribute to making life on earth best for all. Real freedom should be the recognition that we are all born free and that Life should be given to us from birth, not something we have to buy. We should not have to pay to live but instead be given and give each other all the means necessary to create the best possible life for ourselves.

In the next post we will continue discussing Work in the context of how it is currently defined in separation from the value of life and how this affects our children’s education and so the human beings they become.

Re-Educate yourself here:

Last week, I was part of the panel on a Live Google Hangout about the Common Core standards initiative. I definitely recommend watching it.

The Ultimate History Lesson with John Taylor Gatto:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQiW_l848t8

PROPAGANDA | FULL ENGLISH VERSION (2012)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NMr2VrhmFI

The Century of the Self
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7EwXmxpExw

Psywar
http://metanoia-films.org/psywar/

The Trap
http://archive.org/details/AdamCurtis_TheTrap

The Power Principle
http://metanoia-films.org/the-power-principle/

Human Resources: Social Engineering in the 20th Century
http://metanoia-films.org/human-resources/

The Story of Your Enslavement
http://youtu.be/Xbp6umQT58A

Blind Spot
https://vimeo.com/30559203

Inequality for all documentary:
http://www.putlocker.to/watch-inequality-for-all-online-free-putlocker.html

The Four Horsemen:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fbvquHSPJU

On Advertisement and the end of the world:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8gM0Q58iP0

Third World America – Chris Hedges
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drZE65_134g

More articles about parenting and education in a Guaranteed Living Income System:

http://livingincomeforall.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/parents-need-a-living-income-now/

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/category/parenting/

http://economistjourneytolife.blogspot.com/2014/01/day-259-living-income-guaranteed-and.html

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/the-self-perpetuating-cycle-of-homelessness-and-living-income-guaranteed/

Watch the hangout about Education for a New World in Order: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlj5wGCRnSU

 

 

How Much Reality Can a Child Handle? 87

How Much Reality Can a Child Handle? 87

How much reality can a child handleAs teachers it is our responsibility to teach children about life, about the world, about the history of human civilization and about the best practices that we as humans have come up with to co-exist effectively in this world. It is a responsibility that for all intends and purposes should not be taken lightly considering how we, through the education of today, are shaping the future of tomorrow.

I am continuing here from a series of blog-posts that I wrote about introducing children to real-life issues.

I Know the World. Do You? DAY 82

Connecting Learning to Real Life: DAY 81

Cultivating Social Change Through Education: DAY 80

In my work as a teacher I often find myself wondering, “how much is too much?” when it comes to introducing children to the reality of what is going on in this world. I once suggested to my colleagues that we should do a project about death and this was something that many of my colleagues thought would be too much for the children to handle. But what I saw within this was that we as adults tend to project our own fears, our own taboos onto children and so because we have an unresolved and emotional relationship with death as a theme, we assume that children would have the same. The thing is that children haven’t developed taboos or fears towards certain topics until these are imposed upon them from adults, either directly or implicitly through the adult’s own fears and emotional reactions. Another dimension entirely however, is the question of whether a topic is too abstract or complex for a child to understand and that the child would thereby be introduced to information that it simply isn’t able to effectively comprehend. This is something that is most certainly valid to consider, however it can also be intervened upon through an effective presentation of the information in accordance with the child’s current capacity of comprehension.

Time and time again I am surprised by how much children actually see and understand about this world, about human nature and the world systems. Yesterday for example I talked to a 6.grader, which at 12 years old understands that movies for children today are deliberately scripted so as to not introduce children to what is really going on in the world and thus keep them docile. We were having a discussion about a book that has been made into a movie and then an animated re-make of that movie, with the first one being done over 30 years ago and the second one only recently made. What he shared came from his own discernment and was not something that I or anyone else had coached him into saying. Considering the complexity in his perspective with an understanding, not only of a historical context of the production of movies, but also a conflicted relationship between adults and children, it is quite advanced for what we would normally expect of a 12-year-old. As I have mentioned in previous blog-posts, I also have a 10-year-old student who is already up to speed with the latest ‘conspiracy theory’ information on the Internet and on YouTube specifically. Unfortunately, this is something that is not recognized by the ordinary school system or by his teachers as being pertinent or relevant and therefore his research is mostly done without any form of adult participation with his buddies after school.

On a general note I find that the students I teach have a much greater capacity for comprehension and a much greater awareness of what is going on than adults give them credit for. We tend to have a certain expectation towards what children are supposed to be able to understand and comprehend at specific ages and we vehemently stick to these when we teach them, and even when we simply communicate with them or listen to them. What we tend to neglect the fact that children growing up today have independent access to information at a completely different level than we did as children. This means that our 10-year-olds and 12-year-olds on their own volition for example go online to find information to try to make sense of this world and themselves within it and along the way come in contact with information that most certainly has not been pre-screened to ensure that they in fact are able to effectively deal with the information and contextualize it in a commonsensical way in relation to their own life. This involves everything from hardcore porn to chat sites and commercials that is accessible to children but where no adult intervention or guidance is involved. What I have seen in my own work is that children often see adults as fake, as not caring, as making assumptions about them and their ability to comprehend the world around them. This creates the consequence that children do not share their perspectives, their concerns or fears with adults because they’ve already given up on adults in a way, they know that adults don’t see them for who they are as Beings. Instead many adults see them only as ‘children’, a category identified by size, age and gender that the adults then speak TO but not WITH.

What I have found with my students, in particularly the ones who are already interested in what is going on in the world is that their eyes light up and it is as though the suddenly ‘come to life’ when we are talking about real life events. So this is something that I am working on implementing into our lessons, to talk about the extinction of animals, about war, about poverty. But it is a fine line where one has to consider the maturity level of the child without making any preconceived assumptions. It is interesting though that it tends to be us as adults that do not believe that children are interested in reality. We often carry an assumption and a belief that fiction and fantasy worlds are so much more interesting to children that all they care about is Disney princesses and violent computer games. But what if their apparent disinterest in real life matters is simply showing that the reality we have been presenting them with isn’t in fact the ‘real’ reality? If we take a long self-honest look in the mirror we will see that we as adults often aren’t really here in fact. We are so busy in our minds being stuck in the ‘rut’ of every day living, while juggling our own desired fantasies and virtual realities that we come across to children as these ‘shells’ of something that was supposed to be a real living human being but that is nothing but a constructed personality putting on an act and expecting them to play along. Luckily many children do not fall for it, although unfortunately most eventually join in the choir of parroting personalities, going with the motions without really being present in real time reality.

What we can do as teachers is to introduce more real life themes into the curriculum and to as such bring the technical side of for example learning how to read and write together with current issues. This way we may stand as catalysts for children to become involved and engaged in the issues of the world in a way that is aligned to their current level of comprehension but without making preconceived assumptions. This requires courage on the part of the teacher, to not stay stuck in personal beliefs or opinions but to allow what opens up in the discussions with the students, to unfold unconditionally. Creating an interest in and a consideration for what is going on in the world is imperative because at the moment so many of us are lost in fantasy-realities and the real world is suffering because of it. This doesn’t mean that fantasy and fiction cannot still be part of a child’s education, but simply that there is so much more going on in reality that we aren’t making children aware of, most likely because we aren’t even making ourselves aware of it. But as I have seen with many of my students, children actually want to know what is going on – but they want the real story, not the manufactured censored version constructed to fit their assumed level of comprehension. So as a teacher, I am making it my commitment to find and develop effective ways to introduce children to what is going on in the world without making assumptions about what they can and cannot handle to hear and still take where they are and who they are into consideration. The school year is almost up so as part of my summer’s leave I will be planning next year’s term and the projects we will be working on in class. To prepare myself for this, I have asked my students what they want to learn about next term. I was not surprised to hear that many of the younger students want to learn about the game Minecraft (or rather: teach me about Minecraft) and so in relation to that I am considering doing a project about architecture. When asking a couple of my other students if there is anything they’d like to learn more about, an 7-year-old boy posed the question: “Where are babies before they are born?” and another 7-year-old student added the question: “How do babies learn words?” From my perspective these are important and rather existential questions and they would not have been asked had I not been open to take an interest in what it is that children are interested in. So because of this, we will be doing a project about The Body and will see how we can find relevant answers to these questions and as such educate ourselves – the children and I together – about this world and so ourselves within it.

If you are ready to get involved in a political and economic change of paradigms and thereby also a change of our education systems, I invite you to investigate the Equal Life Foundation’s proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income System. This proposal suggests a groundbreaking change in political paradigms that doesn’t ‘take sides’ but instead presents a completely new approach to solving the problems we are currently facing in this world.

Re-Educate yourself here:

The Ultimate History Lesson with John Taylor Gatto:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQiW_l848t8

PROPAGANDA | FULL ENGLISH VERSION (2012)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NMr2VrhmFI

The Century of the Self
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7EwXmxpExw

Psywar
http://metanoia-films.org/psywar/

The Trap
http://archive.org/details/AdamCurtis_TheTrap

The Power Principle
http://metanoia-films.org/the-power-principle/

Human Resources: Social Engineering in the 20th Century
http://metanoia-films.org/human-resources/

The Story of Your Enslavement
http://youtu.be/Xbp6umQT58A

Blind Spot
https://vimeo.com/30559203

Inequality for all documentary:
http://www.putlocker.to/watch-inequality-for-all-online-free-putlocker.html

The Four Horsemen:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fbvquHSPJU

On Advertisement and the end of the world:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8gM0Q58iP0

Third World America – Chris Hedges
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drZE65_134g

More articles about parenting and education in a Guaranteed Living Income System:

http://livingincomeforall.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/parents-need-a-living-income-now/

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/category/parenting/

http://economistjourneytolife.blogspot.com/2014/01/day-259-living-income-guaranteed-and.html

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/the-self-perpetuating-cycle-of-homelessness-and-living-income-guaranteed/

Watch the hangout about Education for a New World in Order: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlj5wGCRnSU

 

 

Our Common Core. 86

Our Common Core. 86

Everything that exists on this Earth is made out of the same Common Core, the same molecules, and the same atoms. 75 % of the earth is covered in water. Up to 60 % of a human body is made up of water. Pigs are animals whose anatomy so closely resembles the human that a pig heart can be transplanted into a human and provide that human with a functional heartbeat. According to the animal liberation front over 100 million pigs are slaughtered every day in the U.S. It is the brutal circle of life as we know it. In this post we will be exploring a different common core, namely the Common Core standards that has been implemented in the U.S education system and that according to many educators will change how we see and conduct education on a fundamental and ground breaking level.

Let me start by giving some background as to the reason why I, as a Swedish teacher am writing about the Common Core and what this has to do with the ‘circle of life’.

Yesterday I attended a lecture on a literacy program called Reading to learn given by the chair of a non-profit organization called Reading for life. The Reading to Learn program was started in Australia with the specific aim of assisting children from aboriginal families to improve their learning capacity through an intensified focus on reading. The organization has as its mission to work “towards the goal of democratising education so that all learners are given the best opportunities to develop cognitively, linguistically, socially and emotionally regardless of age, sex, ethnicity or social background and have available a range of options to enable them to participate fully in society.”

While the lecture was fascinating and I agreed with many of the perspectives and incentives shared with regards to a functional perspective on language development and literacy, I kept thinking about how the researchers were operating based on the assumption that education and educational strategies are separate from politics. It reminded me of two interviews that I had watched earlier in the day about the implementation of the Common Core Standards in the U.S. and how the point of introducing new didactic strategies cannot be separated from the political undercurrents that dictates the education system. I strongly recommend watching them to educate oneself on the Common Core.

Clint Richardson interview, pt. 8 – “Common CORE “Education” – Enslaving Your Child” – #173

Why Common Core Must Be Opposed

It would be redundant for me to write yet another article discussing the pro’s and con’s of the Common Core. The Internet is already flooded with bloggers and educators and journalists discussing the Common Core to such an extent that it can be difficult to see the forest for the trees when it comes to determining whether the program is promoting a revolution of our education systems or in fact its demise. The cognitive disinformation surrounding around the Common Core is palpable to say the least. I will therefore in this article instead have a look at what is ’behind the curtain’ of the Common Core in context to the general purpose of education in conjunction with a previous article I wrote about John Taylor Gatto’s exposure of the education system’s main functions.

The primary purpose with the Common Core is prominently articulated in an article from the New York Times quoting Education Secretary Arne Duncan. In an email to the newspaper he said: “If we’ve encouraged anything from Washington, it’s for states to set a high bar for what students should know to be able to do to compete in today’s global economy.” (Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/09/opinion/sunday/the-common-core-whos-minding-the-schools.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0)

The statement about making children equipped to compete in the global economy has become the default catch phrase of both government officials and others involved in the privatization of the education system. As I have written extensively about in other articles on this blog, it was the emergence of international testing of children’s literacy and math skills that revealed how countries such as the U.S were falling alarmingly behind and that juxtaposed with the advent of economic globalization kicked off the search for new educational strategies to boost the learning capacity of American children.

The Common Core standards are thus (supposedly) created to raise the academic achievement of American school children, to support high school students to become ‘college-ready’ and to decrease the socioeconomic achievement gap that especially affects Latin- and Afro-American children. This principal aim of the Common Core as it is presented here is indeed sympathetic and is in fact very similar to the Reading to Learn Program I briefly mentioned in the beginning of this article. The problem is that all these new educational initiatives, however sympathetic their incentive may seem to be, are based on a credulous acceptance of the current political and economic systems.

What is often not mentioned or brought up in discussions about the education system is that the starting-point of almost all current education policies across the world is the global economy and within that a distinct corporatized perspective of human beings as ‘human capital’ existing to serve the global economy through profit-optimization. This perspective is then implemented on a national level with the ‘politically correct’ aim of securing a country’s ability to compete on the global market through effectively educating their citizens. Across the board is the acceptance of the current economic system and with it, the subsequent subjugation of our education systems to function in its servitude. Common Core is a clear example of that. As ironic as it may be, some of the most profound critical perspectives on the Common Core, comes from students, such as for instance Ethan Young, a High School Senior from Tennessee who recently addressed the board of education in Know country. One of things he said was that: “Standards-based education is ruining the way we teach and learn. Why? Bureaucratic convenience. It works with nuclear reactors; it works with business models, why can’t it work with students? I mean how convenient, calculating exactly who knows what and who needs what. I mean, why don’t we just manufacture robots instead of students? They last longer and they always do what they’re told.” (Source: http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2014/01/tennessee_student_ethan_young_.html)

The thing that researchers, educators and policy-makers tend to omit, whether deliberately or not, is that education cannot be separated from the political agenda in which it is embedded. When new educational and didactic strategies are presented and implemented into the education system, there tends to be a general understanding that these strategies are based on a scientific and pedagogical perspective on learning and that learning in itself is something objective and inherently separate from the political agenda. Unfortunately nothing could be further from the truth. Education has throughout the history of human civilization and increasingly been used as a propagandizing tool to steer populations into a specific political and dogmatic framework. While this is in itself highly problematic (and also philosophically a conundrum because how do you teach without indoctrinating?) what is even more problematic is that these new educational strategies such as the Common Core and other standardized testing regimes are presented as though their chief aim has to do with learning in itself, when there is in fact a distinct political strategy behind them. Education and learning (as well as teaching to some extent) has been taken hostage and is under siege by the current economic system through the direct instructions of the political system. We are so puzzled by the fact that students seem to get worse and worse when it comes to learning basic skills such as reading, writing or math, yet we fail to see that an educational system existing in servitude to a corporate oligarchy obviously does not have learning as it prime objective. As such, the prime objective of our education systems is profit maximization for the lucky few and students are viewed as valuable only as far as they can be molded into human capital.

The point is that education cannot be separated from politics and doing so is a clever political strategy used to further placate people into believing that all is well in the world and that ‘the experts know what they are doing’. A corporatized system stands accountable only to its shareholders and what its shareholders want is to optimize profits. This is then the axis upon which the world turns. The consequences of this can be seen in every corner of the world explicitly as well as implicitly.

We cannot implement any effective educational strategies that will improve our children’s ability to read, write and do math – let alone change the current situation on earth, until we change the political and economic foundation of our societies. We will see all kinds of academically sophisticated systems being implemented into our education systems, but they will all fail as long as education is under siege by the corporate elite with our credulous and implicit endorsement. This is also one of the reasons why I in a recent article suggested that parents step up to the plate and get involved in their children’s education, not as by-standers but as the primary caretakers that they by bringing children into this world, have taken a silent oath to be. See, there’s nothing wrong with educational strategies and systems or technologies. In fact we’re in an era were more amazing tools are being developed than ever. But if these tools are only being used to sedate our children while placating us as parents, we are facing a dangerous time ahead. Read more about these points in this article.

The solution to what is happening in our education systems (or in the world for that matter) is therefore not to keep coming up with strategies to change the international test scores and make our children able to compete in the global economic system. We have to first of all realize that the principles within and through which we currently exist on this planet are directly obstructive and destructive towards our very own lives. We have to stop seeing the ‘global economy’ as an objective structure that exists autonomously and realize that it is a contrived and strategic construct created to serve a specific political agenda, a political agenda that in its very nature stand against what is best for all life, because it within its very structure has no consideration for life whatsoever.

Our Common Core is not the global economic system. A global economic system built to optimize profits for its shareholders cannot sustain this planet because its priorities have nothing to do with preserving or caring for Life. Our Common Core is quite literally this planet and the Life that we all share and this ought to be the foundation of our education systems. Education should therefore first and foremost be about life and thus, a Life that is Best for All should be the prime objective of any educational institution. This is most certainly a political and a strategic perspective on education, but it is a strategy without hidden agendas, without loopholes, without the need to propagandize and use cognitive disinformation to passive-aggressively force people to conform.

If you are ready to get involved in a political and economic change of paradigms and thereby also a change of our education systems, I invite you to investigate the Equal Life Foundation’s proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income System. This proposal suggests a groundbreaking change in political paradigms that doesn’t ‘take sides’ but instead presents a completely new approach to solving the problems we are currently facing in this world.

Re-Educate yourself here:

The Ultimate History Lesson with John Taylor Gatto:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQiW_l848t8

PROPAGANDA | FULL ENGLISH VERSION (2012)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NMr2VrhmFI

The Century of the Self
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7EwXmxpExw

Psywar
http://metanoia-films.org/psywar/

The Trap
http://archive.org/details/AdamCurtis_TheTrap

The Power Principle
http://metanoia-films.org/the-power-principle/

Human Resources: Social Engineering in the 20th Century
http://metanoia-films.org/human-resources/

The Story of Your Enslavement
http://youtu.be/Xbp6umQT58A

Blind Spot
https://vimeo.com/30559203

Inequality for all documentary:
http://www.putlocker.to/watch-inequality-for-all-online-free-putlocker.html

The Four Horsemen:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fbvquHSPJU

On Advertisement and the end of the world:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8gM0Q58iP0

Third World America – Chris Hedges
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drZE65_134g

More articles about parenting and education in a Guaranteed Living Income System:

http://livingincomeforall.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/parents-need-a-living-income-now/

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/category/parenting/

http://economistjourneytolife.blogspot.com/2014/01/day-259-living-income-guaranteed-and.html

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/the-self-perpetuating-cycle-of-homelessness-and-living-income-guaranteed/

Watch the hangout about Education for a New World in Order: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlj5wGCRnSU

Sources:

http://www.gnosticmedia.com/clint-richardson-interview-pt-8-common-core-education-brave-new-world-173/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jp_mp5cJMDU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=do6o57N_SVA

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/09/opinion/sunday/the-common-core-whos-minding-the-schools.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

http://asiasociety.org/education/learning-world/global-roots-common-core-state-standards

http://truthinamericaneducation.com/common-core-state-standards/myths-verses-facts/

http://reading4life.org/

 

 

John Taylor Gatto: Blowing the Whistle on the Education System. 85

John Taylor Gatto: Blowing the Whistle on the Education System. 85

educated to live a lieOne of the most important voices of progressive education, John Taylor Gatto exposes in several of his books, articles and interviews the undercurrents that steer the direction of the current education system. These undercurrents within our education systems are most prominently exposed by Gatto through his exposé of Alexander Inglis’s book Principles of Secondary Education. In this book from 1918, Inglis lists the six primary functions of education and Gatto takes these as his critical point of departure and writes:

“Inglis breaks down the purpose – the actual purpose – of modem schooling into six basic functions, any one of which is enough to curl the hair of those innocent enough to believe the three traditional goals listed earlier:

1) The adjustive or adaptive function. Schools are to establish fixed habits of reaction to authority. This, of course, precludes critical judgment completely. It also pretty much destroys the idea that useful or interesting material should be taught, because you can’t test for reflexive obedience until you know whether you can make kids learn, and do, foolish and boring things.

2) The integrating function. This might well be called “the conformity function,” because its intention is to make children as alike as possible. People who conform are predictable, and this is of great use to those who wish to harness and manipulate a large labor force.

3) The diagnostic and directive function. School is meant to determine each student’s proper social role. This is done by logging evidence mathematically and anecdotally on cumulative records. As in “your permanent record.” Yes, you do have one.

4) The differentiating function. Once their social role has been “diagnosed,” children are to be sorted by role and trained only so far as their destination in the social machine merits – and not one step further. So much for making kids their personal best.

5) The selective function. This refers not to human choice at all but to Darwin’s theory of natural selection as applied to what he called “the favored races.” In short, the idea is to help things along by consciously attempting to improve the breeding stock. Schools are meant to tag the unfit – with poor grades, remedial placement, and other punishments – clearly enough that their peers will accept them as inferior and effectively bar them from the reproductive sweepstakes. That’s what all those little humiliations from first grade onward were intended to do: wash the dirt down the drain.

6) The propaedeutic function. The societal system implied by these rules will require an elite group of caretakers. To that end, a small fraction of the kids will quietly be taught how to manage this continuing project, how to watch over and control a population deliberately dumbed down and declawed in order that government might proceed unchallenged and corporations might never want for obedient labor.”

Source: http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/16c.htm

As can be seen from Gatto’s deduction of Ingles list of primary functions of education, the base premise is to maintain and manage the status quo of the market oriented society and within that the segregation of citizens into manageable consumer groups.

Besides the obvious alarming consequences of creating an education system based on a cynical perspective on human beings, there is another dimension of this that I would like to open up here:

Having a look at the these six purposes of schooling that are saturated into the fibers of our education systems, it is noteworthy that none of them are openly written into the school policies or curricular. Instead we have elegantly written goals and principles that honor ‘equality’, ‘diversity’, ‘inclusion’, ‘democracy’, ‘independence’ and ‘life long learning’. These are some of the key words used in schools all over the Western world to assiduously and innocuously make us into better human beings who will grow up to make the world a better place.

On a daily basis I see and speak to students, students who are tired, students who are exhausted, bored and fearful when it comes to their education and their future. They know that they must go to school to learn for the sake of learning but are taught from an early age to not ask too many questions, that ‘things are the way they are’ and most importantly; that there are no viable alternatives to the current societal structure. They learn through ethnocentric course material that their culture is superior to other cultures and those words like ‘terrorist’ is synonym with Arabic sounding names. In fact, the stark inversion between the apparent principles that schools are supposed to teach and the actuality of life for children in schools reminds me of George Orwell’s 1984 where words were reversed and twisted to coax the population into obedience. As it may be when one is living on a lie, one has to be assiduous in one’s efforts to maintain the illusion that the lie is truth.

For the students however, who were born with brains and bodies not yet washed with the sweet smelling but ever toxic detergent that is the current education system, it is not as easy as simply jumping on the bandwagon and happily drink the cool-aid, at least not the younger ones. They are prompted to learn about the importance of democracy in a system that is anything but democratic. They are told to accept and include each other on the playground while being bombarded with images and music that tell them they must compete and stand out to be good enough. That is how they are differentiated and segregated and they know it so buying the newest toy or music album or clothing item becomes a matter of life or death for them.

What John Taylor Gatto saw based on decades of working in the American education system was the strategically placed undercurrent as a certain way of viewing human beings as assets insofar as their usability for the economic markets. It is no wonder because after all, we have long ago signed away our ‘souls’ to the devil that is the current economic system. More wanted more and we were willing to pay any price to get it, even risking the future of all mankind and the earth in the process.

The fact that politicians, market economists, financial tycoons and education policy-makers are operating with two different agendas when it comes to education is remarkably revealing. Imagine for a moment a society where everyone knew the actual purposes of schooling. We would not be able to claim to live in a democratic society. In fact, we would live in an openly fascistic and totalitarian society, not unlike Orwell’s nightmare vision in 1984. What happens in such societies is that the citizens eventually revolt. We saw it in the French revolution, in Chile, in Venezuela and all around the world, obviously never with an outcome that actually changed anything for the better.

The system that we are living in now, where citizens are reduced to consumers whose lives are indebted to corporations, is ‘perfect’ from the perspective that a full measure of control is maintained. People are either ‘blissfully’ unaware as they are caught up in the ‘neon lights’ of entertainment, or exist in a perpetual state of petrification leaving them no room to do anything but survive. It is an effective system because people are left disoriented by the sheer amount of cognitive disinformation fed to them on a daily basis. This begins by brutally breaking children down before they have even had a chance to develop themselves. It is like breaking the wings of a baby bird only to have it gratefully accept a place in the cage because it would otherwise not have survived.

In The Purpose of Schooling, John Taylor Gatto condenses the functions of education into the following five dogmas:

  1. Truth comes from Authority

  2. Intelligence is the ability to remember and repeat

  3. Accurate memory and repetition are rewarded

  4. Non-compliance is punished

  5. Conform: intellectually and socially

    Source: http://disinfo.com/2013/03/john-taylor-gatto-the-purpose-of-schooling/

As a solution to subverting the dumbing down of our children and the subsequent destruction of our planet, let’s have a look at reversing these dogmas into practical living principles that will teach children on a real and fundamental level to become adults who will take on the guardianship of this earth with humbleness and compassion.

  1. In our search for truth in this world, all we seem to find is more lies. As such what is required is stop focusing on truth and within that teach children to live on a lie and to instead teach children the necessary deductive skills to asses information critically, equally and within common sense. To do that they obviously need to be able to read and write, eventually at such an advanced level that no literature or document is beyond their comprehension. Segregating people through language proficiency levels and the extent of vocabulary is one of the most effective ways to ensure the acceptance of inequality. Through this principle of teaching all children to asses information at an equal level, they will be encouraged to be sovereign and thus empowered in such a way that they can make decisions that are not only best for them, but for all living beings.
  2. Intelligence must be measured based on the degree to which it contributes with ensuring a world that is best for all. It is really as simple as that. There is nothing ‘intelligent’ about inventing technologies that has no other purpose than to destroy our habitat.
  3. Education ought to be self-rewarding in the sense that we as individuals should be able to evaluate ourselves and accordingly measure our development within a particular learning process, so as to see where improvement is possible. In the current system rewards and punishment are used interchangeably to create compliant and fearful people that spite and ridicule each other. Again, if we measure intelligence according to which it contributes to a world that is best for all, this will then also be the reward of each individual’s efforts: to contribute to the creation of a world that is best for all and so for oneself. That is real value.
  4. The problem with compliance is that it relies on followers that are complying out of fear. They are never making self-willed decisions and as such they will not take responsibility as co-creators of a business or a society. Instead they are merely following the scripts that are placed before them, while making no independent effort to optimize production processes or working conditions. The result of this is a faulty system where truck drivers fall asleep at the wheel and where doctors accidentally kill patients and where no one really puts any effort into anything they do, because after all: “I just work here.” Furthermore, having people comply out of fear always proposes the risk that they will eventually revolt in some way or another or at least carry a deep-seated blame causing them to never fully commit or give the system their all. For this world to thrive it is imperative that we as human beings become responsible, not only for our own lives, but for the world as a whole. This is our home and if we do not take responsibility for it, no one will. When each stand responsible for themselves and for the whole, they will have an ownership in what they do and thus an interest in the success of all involved. The work of each individual will therefore become valuable in a completely new way where it will not be necessary to use fear to motivate people because each will understand their value and as such be self-motivated.
  5. Forcing people to conform to a system that was built to be broken, as Richard Grove from Tragedy and Hope puts it, simply creates nothing but broken people. Broken people makes broken world which eventually will lead to the demise of all of us with animals and nature standing on the front lines as the canon fodder. So instead of wanting children to conform, we must assist them to transform, so that when they grow up, they do not make the same mistakes we did. To do that we have to transform ourselves, because we obviously cannot teach children anything that we ourselves have not yet learned.

While John Taylor Gatto spent decades teaching children in remarkable and provocative ways, his books and articles and interviews are equally rich sources of information that we as adults can utilize to transform ourselves and reverse the conformity that has already been stuffed down our throats. There are many other authors and pioneers through which we can initiate the re-education process of ourselves to become sovereign human beings that can stand as solid examples for the children entering this world. But the responsibility is and can only be our own. What is so fortunate about this day and age is that all information is virtually accessible through the Internet. All that is then required is critical skills of discernment to circumvent the cognitive disinformation and actually get to the real information about what is happening in this world. We do that through expanding our vocabulary, through cross-referencing what we find with others, through being relentless unveiling ourselves from seeing what is really going on.

In a way it is quite simple; we have to stop living on a lie. But as someone once said, self-honesty is the most difficult thing in the world because it forces us to take responsibility for who we have become and within that we have to let go of the wonderful world of illusion that we’ve created through the lie. The question is: can we afford to keep lying to ourselves when the world is falling apart around us, and at what price?

If you are ready to get involved and get moving I suggest investigating the Equal Life Foundation’s proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income System. This proposal suggests a groundbreaking change in political paradigms that doesn’t ‘take sides’ but instead presents a completely new approach to solving the problems we are currently facing in this world.

Re-Educate yourself here:

The Ultimate History Lesson with John Taylor Gatto:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQiW_l848t8

PROPAGANDA | FULL ENGLISH VERSION (2012)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NMr2VrhmFI

The Century of the Self
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7EwXmxpExw

Psywar
http://metanoia-films.org/psywar/

The Trap
http://archive.org/details/AdamCurtis_TheTrap

The Power Principle
http://metanoia-films.org/the-power-principle/

Human Resources: Social Engineering in the 20th Century
http://metanoia-films.org/human-resources/

The Story of Your Enslavement
http://youtu.be/Xbp6umQT58A

Blind Spot
https://vimeo.com/30559203

Inequality for all documentary:
http://www.putlocker.to/watch-inequality-for-all-online-free-putlocker.html

The Four Horsemen:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fbvquHSPJU

On Advertisement and the end of the world:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8gM0Q58iP0

Third World America – Chris Hedges
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drZE65_134g

More articles about parenting and education in a Guaranteed Living Income System:

http://livingincomeforall.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/parents-need-a-living-income-now/

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/category/parenting/

http://economistjourneytolife.blogspot.com/2014/01/day-259-living-income-guaranteed-and.html

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/the-self-perpetuating-cycle-of-homelessness-and-living-income-guaranteed/

Watch the hangout about Education for a New World in Order: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlj5wGCRnSU

Sources:

http://www.nsa-slovakia.com/assignments/thesixfunctionsofsecondaryeducation

http://www.wesjones.com/gatto1.htm

http://disinfo.com/2013/03/john-taylor-gatto-the-purpose-of-schooling/

http://www.nsa-slovakia.com/assignments/thesixfunctionsofsecondaryeducation

http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/16c.htm

 

 

 

 

Proposal for a Progressive Change of our Education Systems. DAY 84

Proposal for a Progressive Change of our Education Systems. DAY 84

HomeschoolingIn this blog-post I am going to share a progressive and somewhat thought-provoking proposal for changing our education systems, but before I get to that, let me start by sharing a personal story:

As a teacher I work in a quite unique teaching environment as I work with students one-on-one or at the most groups of three or four. Based on this I get to see a different side of teaching than teachers usually do with thirty plus students in the classroom.

I teach a group of three students, that I previously taught separately. Although the lessons are going well I started looking at how all three of these students would have benefited so much more from having one-on-one lessons. They each struggle with their own unique and individual challenges that I cannot effectively assist them with when they are all three together. One of them is dyslexic. The other is self-conscious and doubts themselves constantly and the third is shy about speaking. I might not have even noticed these specific struggles had I taught these students in a classroom with over thirty students, but when I have taught them one-on-one I have seen how each of their struggles affects their ability to learn effectively. Because I now teach them in a group, I cannot sit down and focus on the student that is dyslexic to assist them with becoming comfortable with reading and writing. And with the student that is self-conscious and that doubts themselves, they quickly give up trying to explain something to me. Although their homework and assignments are nearly impeccable they seem to be escalating in their doubt towards themselves and there is little I can do about it in such a short amount of time. With the student that is shy, they are able to hide in the background and since there are doing the work impeccably (just not through speaking) I have seen how I have sometimes experienced it as easier to simply let them hide.

The conclusion I have come to, with the aim of creating the best possible learning environment for these students is that they would all have been much better off by being taught one-on-one. This way I could sit down and really focus on assisting each of them with their unique struggles rather than having to concoct a generalized lesson that hopefully has the effect that they at least learn something.

This made me consider and look at how, if this is the consequence of there being three students in a classroom instead of one, what are the consequences of having thirty students in a classroom with only one teacher? Are these children even learning? And if so, what exactly are they learning? And what about their mental and physical well being?

In many countries like the U.S and in several European countries such as Sweden, we are seeing a drastic decline in learning even the most basic skills like reading and math. Government officials involved in education legislation are doing everything they can to try and turn this around by for example soliciting researchers to do academic studies on learning as well as changing the teachers education and national curriculum. But what they are not doing is decreasing the amount of students in the classroom. Based on the PISA studies it has been shown that students in classrooms with fewer than thirty usually do better in school. So this begs the question of what priorities government officials have when it comes to education. Is it the learning and well being of our children? Or is it keeping costs down and voters happy?

I will argue that decreasing the amount of students in the classroom isn’t even enough. It would surely be an improvement to go from thirty to twenty or even fifteen. But as can be seen in my example with the three students, the most optimal learning environment might simply be to be taught one-on-one.

I remember a couple of years back where I read the Celestine Prophecy books, in one of them it is stated that for a child to effectively develop to become a whole human being, it must have at least one adult dedicated to it at all times. I remember how this statement shocked me and made an impression on me because I had never considered this need of having the undivided attention of an adult. It was provocative and it challenged my outlook on teaching as well as parenting. Many who home-school their children, for example in the U.S (In Sweden it is illegal) might agree with me on this point. However most might see it as unnecessary and even coddling to imagine each child having a designated adult assigned to them. There is furthermore the argument that children need to spend time with peers, as that is an important part of their social education. While I agree that it is good for kids to spend time with other kids, I am not sure that this is always appropriate when it comes to learning, especially when we talk about the more ‘technical’ side of learning the basic rules of math, grammar and reading. Did you know that many schools in Sweden for example have now introduced hearing protection for kids who are so disturbed by the noise in the classroom that they cannot effectively concentrate on their own work? Another important point when it comes to the importance of kids spending time with their peers is that the child-to-child environment can be brutal and full of bullying and transference of bad behavior – especially when kids are left to their own devices which is the case for almost all schools, because there simply isn’t enough staff to effectively monitor all activity. Furthermore, adults are in this case reduced to ‘hall monitors’ and ‘yard guards’ whose primary job is to break up fights and prevent students from getting hurt. I strongly recommended watching the documentary called ‘Bully’ to get a more profound insight into this problem. There are so many kids that are negatively affected by peer pressure that we ought to ask ourselves the question, how important it really is for them to spend their entire childhood primarily being in the company of other kids.

So if we here work with the premise of saying that it would in fact be best if all children were taught on a one-on-one basis, we then have to look at whether or not this would even be possible considering the current education system. Obviously it is unrealistic to imagine an education system where each child has a teacher designated to it exclusively. It might be possible for the top elite of this world to hire private tutors, but for the majority of us it simply wouldn’t be possible. And with cuts already being made on education, it simply wouldn’t be economically possible to drastically change the education system in this way. It would require too much space and too many teachers and simply isn’t practical. As such we would have to think way out of the box in order to ensure that each child is given an effective one-on-one education.

The other day I listened to a TED talk with a guy who claimed to have found a way to teach anyone a new language to native proficiency in six months. One of the things he said that caught my attention is that when the integration of learning is accelerated it means that the child has to spend less time in school. What this means is that if we can find a way of speed up the process of learning, we could actually reduce the amount of time that a child has to spend in school.

So this could be one part of the solution towards progressively changing the way we look at education. Instead what is happening in many countries is actually the exact opposite: when the results from the PISA tests come in and reveal that students are getting worse at learning basic skills such as reading and math, what does legislators and schools do? They do more of the same. They increase the amount of tests; they increase the amount of hours a child has to spend in school believing that more time will effectively solve the problem. This strategy unfortunately falls perfectly into the saying of: “If you don’t know how to fix it, then at least stop breaking it”. As such, we have to dare to think way out of the box when it comes to changing our education system in such a way that learning is optimized to its full potential for every single child in the world.

So what is the solution?

Surprisingly, we find it very close to home considering that child already has one or two designated adults exclusively assigned to them, namely: their parents.

In the current world system however, children has been expropriated or taken off the hands of the parents depending on how you see it, to create a smooth running economic system where children are ‘contained’ while adults go and work to earn money. We have come to take this system for granted as though it is the only and the most optimal way to structure our societies effectively, with the specific and sole purpose of increasing economic growth. See, there has for years been an idea that increasing economic growth is the key to a happy and functioning society, but as we are now seeing, there are clear disadvantages with this strategy, none the least when it comes to our education systems.

At the Equal Life Foundation we have come up with a proposal for changing the principles with which our societies are managed and thus the very structures of our political and economic systems. The Living Income Guaranteed proposal thus suggests a change in the relationship between work, money and citizens, where we shift focus from economic growth just for the sake of economic growth to a sustainable and economically responsible strategy for improving the overall living conditions on earth. It is a proposal that offers ‘the best of both worlds’, where the principles of social responsibility are borrowed from political ideologies such as socialism, but without the utopian ideals of a totalitarian society and where principles of independence and ingenuity are borrowed from liberal ideologies but without the insensitivity towards social consequences.

Through implementing a Guaranteed Living Income System, parents would thus be able to stay at home with their children, as they would not be slave-bound to work in an economic system built on debt. This would also mean that the decision to have a child would be able to be made with much greater consideration for both the child and one’s own well being as the responsibility of the child would be in the hands of the parents.

Some might say that very few people would want to stay at home with their kids, but the following infograph actually shows that this is not the case as up to 75% of people would stay at home with their kids if money was not an issue. stay at home momWhat this might also mean is that fewer people would decide to have children, as having children wouldn’t be linked to survival as we are seeing it for example in third world countries, where having a child is often considered an insurance to the survival of the parents. It is quite odd really when you think about it, how we bring children into this world, only to let them be raised and educated by someone else so that we can go to work and make enough money to feed them and buy them the newest gadgets and consumer crazes. Obliviously this would then require that parents educate themselves in order to effectively raise and educate their children, which is something that even in today’s society is highly missed.

Within a Guaranteed Living Income System we can thus change the education system at a fundamental level and implement the most beneficial solutions for a child’s development and education. This could include home schooling cooperatives, play groups or centers where parents could come and get counseling and training while taking care of their children. There is so much we could do to make education a fun, enjoyable and natural part of a child’s life, once we take the fear of not surviving out of the equation.

While this is a progressive and perhaps for some a provoking suggestion – it is important that we dare to think so far out of the box that we stop seeing the box, the confinement of a debt-based society as the only way to live simply because it is the comfort zone we have become used to. Through the Living Income Guaranteed proposal we are suggesting that a higher quality of life is not only possible, it is a necessity for us to sustain ourselves on this planet. And here we have a practical suggestion that could drastically improve the living conditions for all citizens in a modern and sustainable way without asking people to give up their freedom or the things that matters most to them. In fact we are saying that it is possible to have our cake and eat it to, if only we dare taking that leap of faith and embrace a new perspective on life and living.

More articles about parenting and education in a Guaranteed Living Income System:

http://livingincomeforall.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/parents-need-a-living-income-now/

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/category/parenting/

http://economistjourneytolife.blogspot.com/2014/01/day-259-living-income-guaranteed-and.html

https://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/the-self-perpetuating-cycle-of-homelessness-and-living-income-guaranteed/

Watch the hangout about Education for a New World in Order: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlj5wGCRnSU

 

 

 

 

The Negative Consequences of Positive Reinforcement: DAY 83

The Negative Consequences of Positive Reinforcement: DAY 83

There has, going back as far as the last 30-40 years, been a trend towards validating children through ‘positive reinforcement’ as a pedagogical strategy in parenting as well as education. My mother was such a parent and she specifically used these strategies based on wanting to do something different than what her parents did towards her growing up. When I was a child my mother would tell me stories about how mean her mother was to her and without saying it outright, with such stories she made a point to distance herself from her own upbringing. I am sure that in some way or another she wanted to treat me, as she would have wanted to be treated as a child.

My mother belonged to a generation where ‘tough love’ was the pedagogical tool of the time and she experienced on her own body how degrading this form of upbringing was, ranging from physical isolation and spankings to verbal punishments. My grandparents weren’t especially abusive or tantalizing. They simply raised their children the way they had been raised.

The reason why I am sharing this, is to show how the strategy of positive validation of children is a result of a specific historical development. It was thus not developed as a deliberate pedagogical strategy based on the principle of developing a best practice in parenting and education. During the time when my mother grew up for example, there was a saying that “Children should be seen but not heard” which meant that children were more like ‘extras’ in the theater of showing off family life. This rapidly changed, partly through the developments in social sciences and psychology where children went from being seen as ‘empty barrels’ to being seen as capable in their own right from the moment they were born. However, this way of seeing children also changed on a more personal level, when people such as my mother started immersing themselves in subjects like psychology and therapy. Through this they realized how their childhoods had been robed of joy and self-esteem due to the ‘tough love’ regime enforced by their parents. (Obviously there are still many places on earth where tough love is the most common principle used in raising children).

What I would like to show here is that the paradigm of validating children in a positive way in many respects comes from a reaction towards what was in the past, more than it necessarily has been a carefully considered new strategy in the field of pedagogy and parenting. This means that this ‘method’ or ‘strategy’ in many ways comes from an experience of lack within the parents themselves and an attempt to redeem what is believed to have been lost through a ‘do-over’ process of going in the opposite direction of how one was brought up.

Unfortunately this new paradigm of positive validation is not a perfect solution and we are starting to see how it backfires on a massive scale. From an increase in teen suicides to toddlers being given total reign over their family, making choices that they might not be equipped to make.

The children that grow up now are thus the 2. And 3. Generation raised on positive validation and it shows clearly in how ‘natural’ it is for them to ask for validation and how easy it is for us as adults to encourage such validation-seeking by applauding and praising them in ‘good faith’ that we are strengthening their emotional immune system with sticky sweet love and affection on a daily basis. I can tell you from my own experience as a teacher that it has been very difficult for me to not employ positive validation of children and I can thus see how engrained this way of communicating with children has become, because it certainly is not something that I have been taught as a ‘didactic method’ through my education. Thus it instead comes from my own upbringing and from society in general through how positive validation is now saturated into the social fibers of our communities at a fundamental level.

A problem with positive validation is that it teaches children that their value and worth as human beings comes from others approving, applauding and appraising them on a constant and continuous basis. This has gotten to the point were ‘positive reinforcement’ through rewards (or blackmail) is a standardized part of elementary education in some countries. Children thus get a gold star when they’ve done their work and having experimented with this method briefly in the classroom I can certainly understand why is being used because it obviously works in many cases. In the classroom, we also play children out against one another, where the ‘good students’ get validated for following instructions and the ‘bad students’ get punished or excluded when they don’t. A problem with this method is that we fail to realize that our school system is built up so one-dimensional that only a fraction of students are able to succeed and achieve those gold stars. The other kids never stood a chance and so they come to believe that there is something wrong with them, because after all the responsibility for their apparent ‘failure’ is placed upon them personally, when in fact the system wasn’t structured in such a way to truly harness and nurture their true potential.

The question is however what the long-term consequences is in terms of what kind of human being it is that is being produced through this approach to education and parenting.

Parents and teachers alike use validation as a ‘punishment and reward system’ in order to control children into obedience based on an experience of feeling powerless. It is again a strategy based on reaction, where we as adults come, not from a careful consideration of best practices and potential outflow consequences, but from an experience of desperation towards not being able to effectively direct that enigma we call a child. So adults use such punishments and rewards to make sure that kids do their homework but often fail to realize that this this strategy isn’t merely a method of reigning children. It becomes a living principle for children through which they start seeing life in general in a context of punishments and rewards.

When adults deliberately add appraisal to activities and chores to compel children to do things, it takes away the point of doing things as a natural form of support or self-enjoyment. Eating vegetables or cleaning the dishes for example isn’t a major accomplishment. They are natural day-to-day activities that we do to support our bodies, our living environment and ourselves. By praising children for doing such activities, we are taking away their opportunity to understand how living works in a practical and physical way that is supposed to be self-satisfying in its own regard without it being something ‘more’ or ‘greater’. We can ironically see the consequences of employing such principles on a global scale. When people act in kindness towards animals we call them heroes. We praise ourselves for celebrating ‘earth day’ one day a year even though the current condition of the eco-system requires a daily focus and attention to the needs of the environment. When we give to charity we feel good about ourselves and believe that we have done our part in making the world a better place. We expect praise and applause for actions that should have been natural and commonsensical from the get-go.

The most significant problem with using validation in parenting as well as in education is that it separates the students from the self-fulfillment of their work AND their worth. Because instead of doing things to be satisfied with themselves they do it to satisfy their teacher or their parent and from that they derive a positive energetic experience. As such they learn that their worth and value is contingent upon producing something outside of themselves (like homework) through which the adult will then validate them.

What this means is that our worth and value as human beings is placed as something separate from us that we can only achieve through the validation of others. So we are taught that ‘who we are’ as the value and worth of our being, which is in actuality something inherent that we can never lose or gain, is existent separate from us and thus has to be given back to us by someone else who thus automatically gets the power and authority to decide our worth and value. When the child is prompted to separate itself from its own inherent value by placing focus on what the child produces (like applauding a drawing) outside of itself, a ‘loss and gain’ game is initiated that eventually grows into an addiction towards being validated on an emotional and psychological level.

We can even see how this is carried with us into adulthood: It is a ‘perfect’ system because it keeps us existing in fear and compliance to our relationships with each other. And so we can see how this epidemic of validation is the foundation of training complacent workers that will work for reward without real awareness of what they are in fact working on. A good example of that is how we are told to strive for a career, that our work is supposed to be a satisfaction in itself because it apparently reflects our growth as human beings. But within that it is again someone else that has the final say as to whether we are worthy or valuable, as we project value on to status and symbols of success.

As we have seen here, validation is not an effective pedagogical strategy because it modifies the child into dependency at a fundamental level. This does however not mean that the only alternative is to go back to the ‘tough love’ methods that traumatized so many and that still in many cultures is the staple when it comes to pedagogical strategies. It is interesting within this how we as human beings tend to see things in black and white, like “if it is not black then it must be white” – when in fact there is an entire spectrum of colors to play with, it simply requires us to be creative and to ‘think out of the box’ that is our own festered mind-programs.

As a teacher, I am working with this on a daily level and I can tell you flat out that I find it very difficult. Daily I hear the question: “Do you like this drawing?” from 6 year olds and I still haven’t found an appropriate answer. Sometimes I say: “Do you like it?” So as to bring the child’s focus back to itself and assist the child to step out of the need to be validated to feel satisfied about itself. However I also find myself, on a daily basis, using words of validation simply because this way of communicating, especially with children, is so integrated into my vocabulary. It requires a constant progressive and self-provoking effort to challenge these ‘politically correct’ methods, exactly because they are ‘politically correct’ which means that moving out of them is moving out of the comfort zone and challenge the taboos of what is considered ‘best practice’ when it comes to educating children.

However we only have to look at the current political climate and the consequences it is manifesting to see that what is considered politically correct isn’t necessarily what is best for our children or society as a whole. As such we have to dare to change what is considered ‘correct’ on a political level, also when it comes to our children’s education or the way we parent. There are many ways one can practically do that. One of them is to change how one communicate and interact with the children in one’s life. However firstly I would suggest that we all take a look in the mirror and investigate our own relationship to validation, because it is only through understanding it in ourselves that we will be able to become and stand as examples of a different way of living to our children.

The most prominent realization I have had as I’ve investigated validation for myself was that the validation didn’t actually come from the other person, although the ‘system’ of validation itself involves others ‘playing along’ or even instigating the ‘validation game’. In the end the experience of feeling validated is something we create inside ourselves, which is why some people never feel validated no matter how much others shower them with praise. It is because it is not really others who have the power to give us value or worth but that we’ve projected that power onto them. This is good news because it means that while we were the problem all along, we are also the solution. And that means that we can change and thus have the power and authority to do so. We can re-educate ourselves to bring back our value and worth from ‘out there’ to being the foundation of who we are and from where we act and so within this empower ourselves in so many ways where our interaction with others can become equal and independent which in turn in fact gives us the power to change society by standing together as sovereign individuals in equality.

For those ready to get involved and get moving I suggest investigating the Equal Life Foundation’s proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income System. This proposal suggests a groundbreaking change in political paradigms that doesn’t ‘take sides’ but instead presents a completely new approach to solving the problems we are currently facing in this world.

Educate yourself here:

The Ultimate History Lesson:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQiW_l848t8

PROPAGANDA | FULL ENGLISH VERSION (2012)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NMr2VrhmFI

The Century of the Self
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7EwXmxpExw

Psywar
http://metanoia-films.org/psywar/

The Trap
http://archive.org/details/AdamCurtis_TheTrap

The Power Principle
http://metanoia-films.org/the-power-principle/

Human Resources: Social Engineering in the 20th Century
http://metanoia-films.org/human-resources/

The Story of Your Enslavement
http://youtu.be/Xbp6umQT58A

Blind Spot
https://vimeo.com/30559203

Inequality for all documentary:
http://www.putlocker.to/watch-inequality-for-all-online-free-putlocker.html

The Four Horsemen:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fbvquHSPJU

On Advertisement and the end of the world:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8gM0Q58iP0

Third World America – Chris Hedges
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drZE65_134g

Sources:

http://schubart.com/2013/09/curling-parents-and-middle-age-children/

http://www.growingwell.com/themes/theme_may2002.htm

http://bps-research-digest.blogspot.com/2012/12/when-parents-lie-to-their-children.html

http://www.drselz.com/blog/2010/05/are-you-a-curling-parent

http://labeet.dk/blog/curling-children-and-helicopter-parents/

 

I Know the World. Do You? DAY 82

I Know the World. Do You? DAY 82

The title for this blog-post comes from a sign I saw hanging at a school on a poster advertising the international day of books. It said: “I Know the World. Do You?” It made me look at the point of connecting learning to real life that I discussed in the previous blog-post and how we as adults tend to make a lot of assumptions about what children are capable of understanding or what they are ‘ready to hear’ incidentally creating the consequence that the doors of expanding the child’s comprehension of the world are shut. As I discussed in the previous post educators far too often present students with a superficial, imitative and distilled version of reality only meant for the classroom often having no connection to real life. This causes students to become disengaged and disinterested, approaching their learning process with the same detached indifference that they experience in being taught. Students are taught that the purpose of going to school is learning for the sake of learning whereas learning to understand the world is seen more as a byproduct of the didactic process.

I will therefore in this post discuss and show why and how a reversal of priorities is relevant to consider where learning for the sake of learning (i.e. the practicing of writing and reading for example) is interwoven naturally into the learning process and where learning to understand the world is placed in the forefront of the didactic process.

Let me start with a practical example:

I have a group of students in the middle grades (10-14 year olds) that I have found it difficult to engage, meaning that they simply don’t find the lessons interesting and often come up with excuses to not do the work. I have tried various methods of engaging them and eventually through observing them and speaking with them I have found that they see and experience school in general as being boring and disengaging. They most certainly experience school as having the purpose of learning for the sake of learning and as I explained in the previous blog-post, they seldom speak about things that they have learned with passion or interest. When they speak about subjects with passion or interest it is things they are interested in outside of school such as computer games, video editing or societal issues in general.

I remember when I was in their age and how I experienced this inexplicable separation and disconnection from whom I was and how I experienced myself to how it was to go to school. Some teachers, but very few were able to instill genuine interest and they did so through sharing their own passion, through opening up and showing who they were, through being genuine and vulnerable and real people. Otherwise the teachers would be disengaged and distant. Their focus would be on ‘getting through the lesson’, silencing the class and making sure that we integrated the technical aspects of what we were learning about. It felt rushed and I remember sitting in class staring out the window not even being fully present in my own body, because of this experience that the entire classroom scenario was fabricated, constructed and simulated – and thus not real. I remember how I also contextualized this experience to an experience of the world itself being ‘hollow’ and ‘flat’ in its dimensions, as though we were living in a two-dimensional card box version of the world with no substance or depth. Obviously I was unable to verbalize and elucidate this experience at that age and so I inverted it and eventually came to think and believe that I was what was wrong with the world, that the disconnection I experienced meant that there was something wrong with me.

Children see and experience how fake we as adults are. They hear us utter the words that we’ve got everything under control, while they see the desperation in our eyes and hear the shakiness of emotions in our voice. They are presented with a perpetual lie of being told that everything is fine, that the world is in order, that the adults understand the world and that they as children are to subject themselves to the ‘wisdom’ and guardianship of adults – while they see and hear and feel how none of this is true in fact. But when something is being repeatedly underscored, especially by the people that one’s life depends on it is almost impossible to stand firm on what one sees in self-honesty. And most that do are rapidly diagnosed with mental illnesses or seen as defiant and so subdued in other ways leaving the lie intact that as adults we know and understand the world and have everything under control, while nothing could be further from the truth.

So what I saw with my students is that the long to be a part of reality – real reality that is, not the imitated and distilled version they are served in school. In a recent lesson we got to talking about the amount of people being killed in Mexico versus in Sweden. From there we discussed the complicated situation on the Mexican and American border and the drug cartels. This was a topic that the students brought up as they associated what they were learning about to other things they had seen or heard. As we were discussing and I also shared my perspectives, having just seen a documentary about the situation in the Mexican border town Juarez, I realized how engaged the students were. This was actually a topic that caught their attention and so I see how I can utilize their interests to structure lessons or even projects where they as they learn about real life subjects simultaneously learn how to read and write, how to research information, where to research as well as techniques for text analysis as an example.

The thing I found is that students and children in general want to learn about reality. They are not at all disinterested or disengaged when it come to understanding the world that they live in. So this experience comes up when they are presented with something that is in essence fake and fabricated, where the material and teachers pretends to be teaching students about how the world works, but where that’s merely a means to the end of teaching them to read and write for example.

Another example from the classroom is a discussion I had the other day with a 4. Grade student based on the image of Armstrong landing on the moon. The discussion quickly became about doctored photos, aliens and conspiracy theories. We discussed the illuminati, 9/11, fake world maps and how we can’t trust what we see on the news. From there the discussion went into talking about Big Bang and whether it is possible to create something based on an explosion. Eventually we discussed how important it is to read and educate oneself so that one can verify information for oneself.

Initially the project was about photography where the student was to analyze and discuss the photo of Armstrong in context to the proverb of “a picture speaks a thousand words.” Instead he created an educational process on a meta-level where he, instead of speaking about the photo from an educational perspective actually started discussing whether the photo was doctored or not. From there we went onto YouTube and started discussing the point and the whole conversation unfolded that I could have in no way prepared or constructed in advance. So what I did was to merely allow the discussion to open up instead of shutting it down and telling the student to focus on the task at hand. I then facilitated the discussion through asking questions and could through that bring in perspectives that were relevant to the lessons topic. While this was happening the student were practicing his Danish speaking and pronunciation skills (the subject I am teaching) but this happened naturally and without effort. This surely proves that we shouldn’t underestimate children and their capacity to grasp the world around them. I had no idea that this student was so self-educated into such a topic as conspiracy theories. I for example only heard about the fake world maps a year ago. He has access to – and is able to locate and reflect upon this information at the age of 10. This shows how important it is that we as teachers and adults in general engage in a real and genuine way with children and students, to also learn about and understand their way of seeing the world and how they gather or process information for example. Because through that we can place ourselves in a position of being able to effectively assist and support them to expand in their process of understanding the world and themselves in relation to it. One of the things I for example discussed with this student at the end of our conversation is how Youtube is cool for learning about stuff to some extent, but that there’s also a lot of BS out there and so it is important to also read and not only watch videos as much factual information is shared in writing as well. From here we discussed how to verify information one has to understand it for oneself that means that one has to be educated. As such I in essence talked to the student about the importance of getting an education, but I did so from a practical and real-life contextual perspective without a hidden agenda of morality.

In the younger grades (the 6-9 year olds) we’re working on a project about animals. The students are asked to pick an animal; it can be a pet they want or a pet they have at home or any animal that they want to learn more about and then they write a book about this animal. The technical side of their education, the reading and writing is integrated naturally into the process of discovery and exploration but the main focus is on that exact process and not the other way around.

When we as adults claim to know the world while presenting children with a distilled and superficial version of it without allowing them to delve into the depths of reality, this ought to serve as a mirror for us to have a look at our own relationship with reality, prompting us to ask the question: am I really here? Am I engaged? Am I genuine in my interaction with others? Is there something I fear about reality that is causing me to merely skim the surface and not delve into the depths of what is going on in this world?

So when kids are bored and unengaged it is actually a cool support for us as adults to have a look at our own participation and interaction with them, because it is most often not coincidental and from there we can work with correcting ourselves and cross-reference this with how they respond.

Because if we don’t, these children are going to grow up to accept the detachment and disengagement as what life is and they will live accordingly being immersed into virtual and simulated realities with the same distance to reality as we have.

This causes massive problems and consequences on a very real and all-encompassing level, because it means that the human beings that are supposed to be guardians of the earth, instead are existing in individual bubbles of detachment and delusion, existing in a state of carelessness and apathy towards what’s going on. This is the exact same I am seeing with my students when they are disengaged and uninterested; they simply don’t care and they have no respect for take any form of responsibility for their education. This is because they’re not really a part of their education; they’re like shells or card-box figures playing a role, serving a function – but they’re not really here and no one expects them to be, because no one else is here either. Existing in a real world without really being Here is obviously going to cause consequences and so teaching children about reality and what is really going on is imperative for the process of changing this world, but even more so – we must educate ourselves on what is going on in the world, even to the point of becoming interested in and start caring about the world, the animals, the earth and the societal developments that are taking place. Here we can let the children assist us as they already are interested in what is going on in the world, they often have an innate passion for animals and understanding how stuff works. There are so much we as adults can learn from children about ourselves and ironically about the world, if only we allow ourselves to open up and within that be genuine and flexible and humble in admitting that we certainly don’t already know everything there is to know about this world. Through this starting-point learning can be a co-educational and co-creational process where we embark on a journey of exploration and discovery together with the children and through this also engage ourselves more into the depths of reality and thus ourselves.

For those ready to get involved and get moving I suggest investigating the Equal Life Foundation’s proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income System. This proposal suggests a groundbreaking change in political paradigms that doesn’t ‘take sides’ but instead presents a completely new approach to solving the problems we are currently facing in this world.

Educate yourself here:

The Ultimate History Lesson:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQiW_l848t8

PROPAGANDA | FULL ENGLISH VERSION (2012)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NMr2VrhmFI

The Century of the Self
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7EwXmxpExw

Psywar
http://metanoia-films.org/psywar/

The Trap
http://archive.org/details/AdamCurtis_TheTrap

The Power Principle
http://metanoia-films.org/the-power-principle/

Human Resources: Social Engineering in the 20th Century
http://metanoia-films.org/human-resources/

The Story of Your Enslavement
http://youtu.be/Xbp6umQT58A

Blind Spot
https://vimeo.com/30559203

Inequality for all documentary:
http://www.putlocker.to/watch-inequality-for-all-online-free-putlocker.html

The Four Horsemen:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fbvquHSPJU

On Advertisement and the end of the world:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8gM0Q58iP0

Third World America – Chris Hedges
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drZE65_134g

 

 

 

Connecting Learning to Real Life: DAY 81

Connecting Learning to Real Life: DAY 81

Yesterday I listened to a podcast from a group of Swedish teachers that were talking about the importance of connecting what happens in the classroom to reality. One of the points they mentioned was how most people in school were asked to write exams and papers that then immediately after grading would end up in the trashcan. One of the teachers mentioned how school is the only place in society where, when you write something, it doesn’t go anywhere; it has no recipients and thus not purpose outside the exercises involved in the process of schooling. So to remediate this problem, the teachers focused on establishing more coherence between school and reality as well as making sure that something happened with the children’s work after completion, such as for example publishing their work online for peer review or having them give speeches in front of their classmates and parents.

Most of us can probably relate to this experience growing up, of school being detached from reality and thus boring and irrelevant. The point that I would like to make here is that if we were to teach children to connect the context in which the material comes from with their learning processes, it would provide them with a connection to reality, an answer to the question: “why do I have to do this?” and as such a greater sense of purpose could be established along with a genuine understanding of the importance of learning.

Growing up I was never very good at math and I remember searching for that connection to reality that could ‘ground’ the subject within me rather than leaving it abstract and ‘hanging in the air’ at a theoretical level. And here I am not talking about using apples and trains as examples, but to for instance show and explain to students why and how math is important for our reality. It wasn’t until high school for example that I was introduced to the history of math, which I found immensely fascinating. Math is such a practical subject that it makes no sense to detach it from reality.  From measuring square feet to understanding the Fibonacci spiral and quantum physics, math is essence about understanding the structures of the real world that we live in. And I am sure that if I had been able to work practically with math in a meaningful way, I would have learned a lot more and a lot easier, let alone having possibly been able to develop a passion for learning math.

I remember how we in the 2. Grade had a project about the Bronze Age, built model clay huts to replicate the kind of homes that people would have lived in in back then. It was fascinating and highly educational to get to actually work with materials at a practical level rather than learning the same information through theoretical information. I am using this example because it made a lasting impression on me as being one of the times where I really learned as a child in a substantial, direct and most of all: an enjoyable way.  The information stuck to me. When learning is enjoyable it is like the information pours straight into us, in fact we cannot get enough of it because we immerse ourselves into the subjects with a genuine passion and interest.

However – instead of focusing on and promoting the joy of learning, the school system presents students with a detached, distilled and superficial version of reality that they have to memorize. When students sit on their chairs, day in day out, hour after hour expected to passively integrate information for which they have no context for, the information does not ‘pour’ into them. Instead it feels like trying to chisel information into a hard rock and the more time goes by, the more difficult it gets to force and shove information in there.

And as if we were not laying enough odds against students actually learning, schools place the emphasis on learning on the end result, the exam, at least in the later years of education. As a teacher I very rarely hear students speak about their education, their subjects or what they actually learn. Instead they speak about the tests they have taken or the exams that are coming up and more than not, it is with expressions of either petrification or sheer boredom and defiance in their eyes. They do not express any form of understanding of the connection between evaluating what they have learned and doing the exams. Instead they experience the exams as a test of them and their worth and value as students and human beings in general. They view exams as gateways to succeeding in the future and this then becomes their entire outlook on education, from primary school to university, always looking ahead, having to complete one level to get to the next. But when does it ever stop? When we leave the education system this way of thinking continues into a adulthood, even when it comes to our private and personal lives – obviously because it has been so totally ingrained into us during those grueling years of going to school.

The other day I spoke to a 15 year old who attends a private school. She explained to me how she looks forward to start in high school because there she will only have 9 subjects as opposed to the 18 she has now. Imagine being 15 years old having to tackle 18 subjects on a weekly basis along with exams and extra curricular activities.  When is there ever time to immerse oneself in the subjects or information? When is there ever time to contextualize what one is learning and integrate it into oneself at an independent level? Most of us can’t even remember half of what we learned in school, because what we were taught – through the way we were taught – is that school isn’t really about learning and getting to know the world in depth and detail; it’s about making it through, getting the grades and moving on.

Recently, my partner who studies law were telling me how he had noticed that many of his classmates know very little about how society actually works. You would think that law students, if any, would be the ones to understand how society works. That is quite alarming considering that these people will become the future lawmakers of this world. So at school you might get really good at studying and passing exams, but when do you actually learn something substantial that will benefit your life on all levels as well as make you a truly beneficial member of society as a whole? During our time in school there is only so much we can learn and in a time with both economic and climate crises, you would think that equipping students with substantial knowledge that can be used to come up with real life solutions would be prioritized. Instead it appears as though everyone, including lawmakers are caught in the treadmill of the ‘human race’ for survival to such an extent that we don’t realize that we’re destroying ourselves in the process – which is quite an absurdity in itself.

When education is disconnected from reality, reality suffers. And so again we can look at what is happening in reality and we can trace that back to the education that we have received and we can measure whether that education has been effective. Through this it is clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that our current education is not effective – and doing more of the same simply isn’t going to make it better.

What I can do as a teacher is to take responsibility and make sure that I create a greater cohesion between the classroom and reality. I can take the children serious and listen to them and be genuine in my interaction with them. I can assist and support them to see the value of what they are doing and show them how what they are learning has a connection to reality. One of the ways I do this for example is through letting the students decide what topics and themes to focus on. Another way would be to, in math for example, take students out and build stuff or in the older classes teach them how to make budgets. But in the end, this is not going to be enough – because the disconnection is happening on all levels of the education system and in society in general. So what can be seen here is that we can also trace what is happening within the education system back to who we are as society, because obviously we teach what we know and we prioritize to teach that which we give the most value. So the connection is not only happening in the classroom. It is in fact ourselves as human beings that are disconnected from reality – and that is what we are teaching our children to do. And in the end, we can only disconnect ourselves so much from reality, because that is our basis for existing, that is who we are. I am committed to bring reality back to the education system and to bring the education system back to reality – and to create a meaningful and genuine space for learning where students can immerse themselves in subjects they are passionate about and through the guidance of skilled and educated adults can be supported and assisted to develop passion for understanding the world around and within them. That is the kind of student we require if we are to clean up the mess we’ve made in this world. A student that understands reality and their own relationship to it. A student that lives in reality and not in a theoretical head space of abstraction.

Join the Equal Life Foundation’s goal towards establishing a Guaranteed Living Income system, the first political and economic proposal in the world where education takes a front seat and where the principles of sustainability and equality guides the economic system for a world that is not only better, but Best for All in fact.

 

 

Cultivating Social Change Through Education: DAY 80

Cultivating Social Change Through Education: DAY 80

cultivating social changeYesterday while I was at the tire shop waiting to get the tires of my car changed, I came across an article in Science Daily about children’s innate mathematical sense. As odd a place to gain profound insight into human nature as the tire shop was, this article sparked within me a curious questioning towards the basic elements of education that we take for granted. Later in the day a friend shared an article with me on social change by Michael Johnson, an editor with Grassroots Economic Organizing from Truth-Out, an online magazine that focuses on exposing the injustice and lies of the current world system.

I am here going to discuss these two articles that at first glance may appear as though they are in no way related and I am going to show how they have to with the same core issues: Education and Social Change.

Now – the article titled The unexpected power of baby math: Adults still think about numbers like kids about children’s innate mathematical sense is based on a study by Dror Dotan, a doctoral student at Tel Aviv University‘s School of Education and Sagol School of Neuroscience and Prof. Stanislas Dehaene of the Collège de France, a leader in the field of numerical cognition. What these researchers found in their study was that children innately look at numbers logarithmically. What this means is that for a small child there is a much bigger ‘distance’ between the numbers 1 and 2 than there is between 101 and 102. Why? Because 2 is twice as much as 1. And as such they progressively see numbers becoming closer and closer, viewing them in their percentage in relation to each other. What the scientists then also found was that as adults we actually preserve some of this innate mathematical sense, but it lessens the older we get because the math we are taught in school is based on a linear understanding of numbers.

“”We were surprised when we saw that people never completely stop thinking about numbers as they did when they were children,” said Dotan. “The innate human number sense has an impact, even on thinking about double-digit numbers.” The findings, a significant step forward in understanding how people process numbers, could contribute to the development of methods to more effectively educate or treat children with learning disabilities and people with brain injuries.” (Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140122134231.htm)

The reason why I am bringing this study up is not to discuss which of the two methods are more valid, but to show that 1) even when children are systematically inculcated into a certain system of thought, they as adults actually do not loose their innate sense of for example math and 2) if we accept the premise that there is a validity in a logarithmic view of numbers, the education system is doing children a great disservice by teaching them to integrate a linear approach to numbers. This could for example explain (in part) why some children struggle with math because the way math is being taught linearly does not depart from the child’s innate sense of mathematics, but instead enforces a counter-intuitive conceptualization.

So what does a study on children’s innate sense of mathematics have to do with social change? I will get to that in a moment.

In his article Social Change: We Are the Problem We Are Seeking to Solve Michael Johnson discusses the incongruity between social change theories and actual social change. He takes an interesting point of departure in looking at social change as being either nurtured or prohibited by the culture created by human beings.

Think of society as a garden, full of a rich diversity of productive plants in beneficial relationships with each other. Think of culture as the soil they are embedded in, from which they draw essential nutrients, and to which they contribute their own stuff for its enrichment. Social change movements, at their best, want to fix a world dominated by exploitive relationships. Most social change theory, in my opinion, is aimed at fixing particular systems, practices, toolkits, etc. Theory that works from the ground up focuses on the soil itself, since this is what creates and sustains the dominant relationships. After all, culture shapes the very ways we see, hear, feel, taste, smell, breathe and think in the most mundane and transcendent ways we live our lives. That is, how we experience. In social life, everything flows from that.” (Source: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/23030-the-ground-of-social-change)

Johnson highlights several examples of how ideas and initiatives of social change have not been possible to implement into practical reality. The most prominent examples are from Argentinian factories where the workers had taken over the factories with the purpose of implementing a new democratic and unified way of managing the business, but where eventually all the same forms of ‘alienation’ resurfaced even though the hierarchical power structure was gone. Ultimately Johnson says, it comes down to ‘deep culture’.

“…what we are dealing with here is a conflict of deep culture. Deep culture involves the basic assumptions about life that we receive from the culture that has raised us. It is embedded in us. It is the ground of our biocultural being. These Argentine workers were attempting a radical transformation of their lives and the world around them, and they hit a wall. That wall wasn’t “out there,” but inside themselves. They had run full force into their own passivity, the very passivity that had been an integral part of the hierarchic system they were working to transform. They had come square against the fact that they were the problem as much as the oppressive owners were.” (Source: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/23030-the-ground-of-social-change)

What can be seen through this example is that social change cannot happen through simply changing the structures and systems within which we as human beings are culturally embedded. Why is that? For some this might add fuel to the fire of the argument that it is because human nature cannot change and that we will always be creatures of greed and self-interest. But there is another way of looking at it, a way so subtle and so obvious that it is seldom described in textbooks on social change. The reason why we cannot simply remove the structures and systems that we see are detrimental to social change and expect change to happen over night, is because these structures and systems are created by us as human beings in accordance with our cultivated human nature. What this means is that the structures and systems are coming from within us and not (at least in this context) from for example observing nature and how it operates. When we create hierarchical structures where some workers are considered less valuable than others and therefore earn less, it is because that is how we have come to think and see each other as human beings in this world. This is why hierarchies and inequality re-emerges, even when the formal structure of hierarchy is removed from for example a business structure. And here we are not only talking about traits of human nature, like greed or inequality that are directly taught to us in our life time from parents and schools. We are talking about centuries of cultivation causing these traits to become embedded into our ‘biocultural’ nature, as Johnson put it. Human traits such as greed, self-interest and inequality are embedded into every aspect of human life, from our inner thought-processes to how we structure our physical environments. As such, it is not possible to simply remove one part of the equation and expect the rest to naturally change as well. Cultivating ourselves as human beings into what it is we exist as today has been a long process and changing that therefore obviously is going to take time and diligence. One of the most effective and imperative ways of eliciting social change is through Education.

This brings us back to the study on children’s innate sense of mathematics:

Even when children in the school system are systematically taught to think linearly when it comes to numbers, they retain a logarithmic sense of numbers as adults. Most small children also have an innate sense of social justice, of equality and compassion towards other life forms. Like with math, these senses are systematically corrupted as the children enter into the process of socialization and cultivation, the process where they become part of society. This happens on all levels of a child’s life, from observing parents to negotiating with other children to the formal schooling system and the media. However – as children grow up they do in fact preserve at least part of their innate sense of social justice, compassion and equality, some obviously more than others. But as was evident from the example with the Argentinian workers, it unfortunately is not as easy as flipping a switch and then the sense of social justice, compassion and equality will override any and all self-interest and greed on a practical level.

Human nature has been nurtured into the way that it currently exists by a process of cultivation and this means is that a process of re-cultivation through education must be implemented into our society for social change to become plausible. We cannot simply for example take money out of the equation of the current world system and then expect that everyone will return to a peaceful way of bartering. We have to change the parts and aspects of ourselves that we have come to take for granted as our ‘nature’ through which we are creating these systems of inequality and injustice in the first place. The good news is that most children have the potential to develop effective social skills, a sense of justice and compassion. These simply have to be nurtured and cultivated. The bad news is that we are not already doing it and that the people who are supposed to teach children how to live effectively in this world, themselves are a result of a corrupted culture. As Johnson says, we are the problem we are trying to solve. As such, we cannot simply ‘think out of the box’ because we are the very box.

So if we, based on this understanding are to formulate a recipe for social change it looks something like this:

The first step is that we as adults must nurture and cultivate our innate sense of social justice, compassion and equality through a process of deliberate self-education. To do that we have to come to grips with and disclose all the ways we have been educated and cultivated into greed and self-interest on an individual as well as a communal level.

This is important because we have come to take the culture of greed and self-interest for granted, even when we think and believe that this is something that exists outside of ourselves ‘in the system’ and that we as individuals are not actively participating in. To deconstruct such cultures and ways of thinking we thus have to educate ourselves on how we each have a responsibility and a part in making the world the way that it is. We also have to educate ourselves on how the system is influencing us to think and behave in certain ways, because without such an understanding we cannot change the way we think and behave on a practical level.

The second step is to change the very fabric of our societies, the culture and systems within which we live and within this also our educational systems where we teach and inoculate children. As we as adults change ourselves to embody compassion, social justice and equality as core principles of a new culture, through which we live our lives, we can begin to discontinue the forms of education that elicits greed and self-interest and to instead nurture children’s innate sense of compassion, social justice and equality.

Where the word nature refers to a biophysical entity that exists innately, the word culture refers to a deliberate process of forming and shaping nature with a specific purpose and with specific methods and tools. As such, we cannot blame our nature as human beings for the way we currently exist on earth, for how destructive we have become, for our greed and self-interest. Because nature in its essential structure functions based on principles of equality and sustainability with all parts of the eco-system supporting the whole to thrive. As such it becomes clear that is through the way we have cultivated our nature as human beings that we have become the way we are now. What this means is that we can change and that we have the tools to change how we live together on this planet. When a farmer’s crops die or when the harvest is unsuccessful, the farmer looks to his methods of cultivating the soil to see where the mistake happened. Perhaps he watered too much or too little, perhaps the mineral composition in the soil required different nutrients to support the plants to grow. This is the way we should think about social change, understanding that because we are the problem, we have a responsibility to become the solution.

For those ready to get involved and get moving I suggest investigating the Equal Life Foundation’s proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income System. This proposal suggests a groundbreaking change in political paradigms that doesn’t ‘take sides’ but instead presents a completely new approach to solving the problems we are currently facing in this world.

Educate yourself here:

The Ultimate History Lesson:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQiW_l848t8

PROPAGANDA | FULL ENGLISH VERSION (2012)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NMr2VrhmFI

The Century of the Self
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7EwXmxpExw

Psywar
http://metanoia-films.org/psywar/

The Trap
http://archive.org/details/AdamCurtis_TheTrap

The Power Principle
http://metanoia-films.org/the-power-principle/

Human Resources: Social Engineering in the 20th Century
http://metanoia-films.org/human-resources/

The Story of Your Enslavement
http://youtu.be/Xbp6umQT58A

Blind Spot
https://vimeo.com/30559203

Inequality for all documentary:
http://www.putlocker.to/watch-inequality-for-all-online-free-putlocker.html

The Four Horsemen:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fbvquHSPJU

On Advertisement and the end of the world:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8gM0Q58iP0

Third World America – Chris Hedges
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drZE65_134g

Sources:

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/23030-the-ground-of-social-change

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140122134231.htm

Is Your Child Equipped for The Future? DAY 79

Is Your Child Equipped for The Future? DAY 79

Equipped for the futureThe other day I was teaching one of my 9. Grade students who is about to leave the primary education system and go to high school. As I was sitting in the classroom with her and observing the way she carried herself, I noticed how ‘professional’ she is. She always has pencils and erasers handy. She has all the papers and tasks for the various classes she attends allocated to individual transparent binders so that she can easily access them. She almost never forgets to do her homework or to bring the text we are working with in class. She writes the deadlines down in a calendar. On top of this, she is almost a straight A student and her dream is to become a doctor. Now – while I am sure a lot of the reason why she is this way is due to her individual demeanor and character as well as her general upbringing and the values towards education that she has been taught from home, seeing the way she handles her education with self-responsibility is a rarity. I most certainly was not like this when I was in school and most of the students I teach are not like this. So it got me thinking about how ill equipped most students are at facing life ahead of them, especially when they transition from elementary school to high school, from high school to university (or the equivalent thereof) and from university into the working life.

As parents it is natural to want what is best for our children. We want them to be happy, to succeed in life and to know that we have done everything we could as parents to provide them with a fulfilling and prosperous life. We send them to school in good faith that they will get a sufficient education to prepare them for the future. While it is commonly accepted that it is the responsibility of us as parents to make sure that our children get ‘good values’ and ‘manors’ at home, we also expect the school system to ensure that our children are academically equipped to face the future. But as countless examples have shown, none the least over the last decade around the world, this responsibility is not being fulfilled. There are too many students in the class-room, not enough is being taught on the premise of each individual’s needs and teacher’s aren’t sufficiently educated.

When students reach high school they often experience a shock when they realize the increased level of difficulty that most subjects contains. And this is even intensified further when they get to university. When we finally leave the education system and venture into the job market, how many of us are equally equipped for what we will be facing?

Where is the education on inter-office conflict mediation for example? When do we learn about how to effectively communicate with other people? Why aren’t there any lessons on how to develop self-integrity and self-trust in school? We are expected to be self-disciplined, innovative, independent and responsible but when is it, where is that we learn these skills? The student that I talked about in the beginning of this blog-post has a natural ability to organize her education effectively. But so often such skills are expected to be innately embedded within a student’s life and is given little to no attention in the school system and in families. Students aren’t shown how to effectively do research or even to structure their homework and yet we expect of them to simply be able to do it as though it is abilities that everyone is born with.

Many people don’t even make it to, let alone through high school in this world. Those that do and make it to the university will often fumble their way through without ever gaining substantial knowledge or practical skills within the field they are studying. As such we have people coming out of the education system who are in fact not equipped to face the world effectively and these are then the people that become our doctors and lawyers and psychologists, our economists, our nurses and our bankers and teachers. We are supposed to trust that the education they have been given to become experts in their fields makes them so reliable that we can place our lives in their hands and trust that they will care for it with utmost respect, integrity and professionalism. But how many of us do not face daily struggles with people in such positions in the world-system?

The way the education system is currently structured is one-dimensional as it prioritizes a very narrow set of skills. And then we wonder why the world falls apart, when we cannot even make sure that our children has an expansive vocabulary, a clear understanding of how the world-system functions, let alone knowledge of their own bodies and minds? How can our children be equipped to face the future when we aren’t ourselves?

The thing that when we are talking about the future here, we are not talking about a stable predictable future where, as long as our children get good grades and manors the world will be their oyster. We are talking about a future that is becoming increasingly unpredictable and unstable, where even a university degree gives no insurance that one will get a job. We speak to our children about what they want to do with their lives as though the world of yesterday is sure to stand tomorrow, when in fact we are facing a situation where very few occupational areas will guarantee a job.

The school system has failed our children in providing them with the most basic skills needed to make it in this world, the very skills that the school system is supposed to be experts in providing. Our children’s learning environments are being threatened and compromised by the educational policy makers whose profit motive overrides any care or concern for our children’s future. It is therefore of vital importance that we as parents resume the primary responsibility for our children’s education – and within that we must educate ourselves on how the world works. For many of us that also means looking at our own work-ethics, our own self-esteem and outlook on the world, because that is what we will be passing onto our children whether we mean to or not.

The purpose of this blog-post is not to instigate fear for our children’s futures, but to bring across a realistic and common sense perspective on the situation we are all facing in this world. We cannot keep trusting an ineffective education system, whose priorities is on anything but actually equipping our children to face the future. This means that the education system has to change, but also that we, as parents have to change how we take responsibility for our children. The politicians and policymakers have made it clear that their focus is optimizing profits in any and all ways. You might say that the world in this respect has gone mad and become delusional in its race for survival. As such we cannot rely on the politicians to suddenly change course and prioritize an education system that has our children’s best interests at heart. This change has to come from us getting involved, getting engaged, becoming political, becoming a voice of reason and common sense in the debate. It also means that we as parents have the primary responsibility for our children’s education, which includes being active in changing the world that they are going to walk into. We cannot complain about the state of the world while taking it for granted. We cannot fear what will happen to our children in the future if we are not willing to take responsibility for shaping that future in their best interest. We cannot pass the responsibility of our children’s education onto a school system that we know is broken and ineffective. So when we ask whether our children are equipped to face the future, no one can answer that question better than ourselves.

For those ready to get involved and get moving I suggest investigating the Equal Life Foundation’s proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income System. This proposal suggests a groundbreaking change in political paradigms that doesn’t ‘take sides’ but instead presents a completely new approach to solving the problems we are currently facing in this world.

Educreate yourself here:

The Ultimate History Lesson:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQiW_l848t8

PROPAGANDA | FULL ENGLISH VERSION (2012)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NMr2VrhmFI

The Century of the Self
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7EwXmxpExw

Psywar
http://metanoia-films.org/psywar/

The Trap
http://archive.org/details/AdamCurtis_TheTrap

The Power Principle
http://metanoia-films.org/the-power-principle/

Human Resources: Social Engineering in the 20th Century
http://metanoia-films.org/human-resources/

The Story of Your Enslavement
http://youtu.be/Xbp6umQT58A

Blind Spot
https://vimeo.com/30559203

Inequality for all documentary:
http://www.putlocker.to/watch-inequality-for-all-online-free-putlocker.html

The Four Horsemen:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fbvquHSPJU

On Advertisement and the end of the world:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8gM0Q58iP0

Third World America – Chris Hedges
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drZE65_134g

 

Educreation: DAY 78

Educreation: DAY 78

EducreationDid you ever consider that everything you know, everything you think, your likes, your dislikes, your words, your actions are a result of your education? While much is taught through the school system, most of what we learn is not taught to us through formal education. For example: we learn how to communicate (or miscommunicate) through watching our parents interacting on a daily basis. We learn that certain foods will provide us with a specific good experience through watching commercials on TV and through advertisements strategically orchestrated to make us buy a specific product. Every day as we grow up, what we see, hear and participate in, is integrated into us and become part of our education as human beings. Whoever we become as adults is a result of that process.

From this perspective it appears that much of what we learn about being human and about functioning in society is random at best. Advertisers certainly do not openly disclose or take responsibility for their part in educating us to want to buy certain products. And parents certainly aren’t trained to stand as sound examples of what it means to communicate effectively with other people.

We tend to think of education as the formal training we get in school. We think of academic subjects like math or grammar or history, but when do we ever consider that which we learn in every day life especially in those first few crucial years growing up? When we for example sit in class and are expected to passively receive lessons, we also learn about power dynamics between adults and children through the way the school environment is set up with the teacher in front of the class. We learn that must disconnect ourselves from our bodies and their physical needs and that our minds are the primary tool through which we must learn.

What we often don’t realize – because we aren’t taught to do so – is that so much of what we learn are not ‘objective truths’. What we are taught however in history lessons for example, is that whatever is on the curriculum is THE history. So when we are taught to memorize royal families or civil war dates, we learn to see the world a certain way.

No one tells us that what we are being taught is but an aspect, a dimension, a fraction of information, let alone that it is a specific ideology or view on the world. And it is upon that fallacious foundation that we grow up to believe that we know the world, that we know ourselves, that we know what is right and good and true. And so we wage wars, between our borders and in our relationships with other people, even within ourselves at an individual level. And we justify these wars as righteous and rational or even holy and we fail to see that everything we see and the way we see it, is a product of our education. When we become addicted to alcohol or porn, we might think that this is a personal problem that somehow reflects a flaw in our beingness. We don’t realize that our addictions are a result of an educational process, an educational process that might have taken place on many levels throughout our lives. From subliminal messages in fairytales that teach us about gender roles, to the peer pressure to drink seen in teen flicks or childish looking alcoholic beverages. We are thus being educated by an uneducated society based on a ‘monkey see, monkey do’ principle on one hand and by strategic advertisers and social marketing experts on the other. Meanwhile, that which we believe to be the ‘education system’ is quite literally dumbing us down as John Taylor Gatto put it. We don’t learn to critically assess information. We don’t learn to read, write or do math’s effectively, in spite of this being the frontier subjects of our schools. And alarmingly as it is, yet so completely unheeded, is the fact that we don’t learn to exist within our own bodies or with our own minds – let alone in relationships with others – in an effective and sound way. So while advertisers hire experts on human psychology to strategically make us believe that we’ve made a conscious decision to purchase that colorful alcoholic beverage, our school systems don’t teach us to develop an understanding of what alcohol does to the body. We aren’t even taught how to physically asses when we have had so much alcohol that our bodies cannot handle it any longer. Instead we celebrate crazes like neknominate or we laugh at images of girls vomiting in the street as though it was just any other weekend on the town.

We are taught to take the world for granted while we celebrate ‘earth hour’, the annual ‘world water day’ or when a sustainability lecturer pops by our classroom to teach us about the wonders of recycling.

When politicians tell us that everything is fine and we need not worry, it is a result of their education. And when Chris Hedges, a journalist and one of the most important voices in alternative media today says that the only answer to getting out of the mess is to rebel against the establishment, it is a result of his education.

I say that the answer is education. Education is what has brought us where we are today. Thus, education is the key. As they so famously say in the sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica: “All of this has happened before and all of this will happen again”. What that means is that nothing in this world will change until we change our education, because otherwise we will simply teach our children the same flawed lessons that we have been taught. And within this, a great deal of humbleness on the part of the adults is required. Because we have to be willing to admit to each other and ourselves that we don’t know how to effectively live in this world. I mean, we simply have look out the window, turn on the TV or look inside our own minds and observe the thoughts we participate in to see this for ourselves. We have to stop pretending like we have got it all under control and we have to stop telling children that “It’s just the way it is…” when they ask us why wars exist or why children are starving in Africa. Because it is through that answer that we are allowing the atrocities of the world to continue. Or when we look at everything that is wrong with the world and we make the statement that it cannot be changed or that human nature cannot be changed, remember that it is a result of our education. Even that very statement is a result of our education.

Now – you might ask me: “But isn’t everything you are saying here also just a product of YOUR education?” Yes it is to a certain degree. I couldn’t write these letters or formulate sentences if it wasn’t for my education. However, the perspective that I am sharing here is one of breaking through the veil of that which we take for granted and that is certainly not something I learned growing up. I wish it had been. Instead I have walked and I am still walking a re-education process where I am slowly but surely lifting the veil that has been obscuring my vision for so many years. With the advent of the Internet, all information is being disclosed and we for the first time have the opportunity to get a more holistic perspective of what is going on in the world. We can read books and watch interviews with people such as Noam Chomsky, Adam Curtis, Chris Hedges and John Taylor Gatto, some of the most well-read and well-educated people in the world. We can hear how they all share the same basic perspective: that what we are doing on the planet is unsustainable and that we have created an education system through which we are dumbing ourselves down to benefit a few elite players in the game for global dominance. I am not talking about conspiracy theories here, but about a very real process of miseducation where we have taught ourselves and each other that what comes first in this world is our individual self-interest and survival. And so we have made competing for survival a ‘natural’, ‘normal’ and even idealized way of living, praising those who are able to make it to the top, not realizing how the whole system is rigged so that most of us never stand a chance of even entering the ‘race’. All of this is a result of our education. Nothing in this world happens ‘out of the blue’, but as a result of cause and effect, actions and consequences. What may have started with a group of beings ‘accidentally’ creating the fear of survival within themselves, has now turned into a global enterprise of suffering and mayhem leaving the earth scorched and at the brink of destruction.

It is therefore imperative that each of us embark on a journey of de-educating and re-educating ourselves, where we start by investigating everything that we have taken for granted and trace back the steps to see where and how we were taught to see the world this way. Because once we understand that a certain way of thinking or a certain set of beliefs has been taught to us and thus isn’t an ‘objective truth’ we can begin to open ourselves up to the possibility that perhaps there are other ways to look at the world and ourselves within it.

Remember, the baseline of why we are doing this is an understanding that the current world system and ourselves within it, is a result of an ineffective and flawed education process. That much is clear. So this is where we must be humble and open to the possibility that even the beliefs and values that we hold most dear, may be and part of that exact flawed education process. And it is from there, from wiping the slate clean, that we can begin making directive decisions to educate ourselves to see the world and ourselves differently. It could for example be through a process of understanding how we have been communicating ineffectively in our personal relationships and how this is something we have learned from watching our parents. Here we may start investigating the entire concept of relationships and the beliefs and expectations we’ve held within that. And we may start looking at how to redefine and restructure our relationships in such a way that they don’t become toxic emotional warzones where we go from battlefield to battlefield without ever changing who we are within them. And so we start with ourselves and begin by simply stopping one thought, one automated pattern of reaction. This then become the foundation of a commonsensical and practical re-education process that we can do ourselves, for ourselves and for the betterment of the world as a whole within an understanding that if we don’t, we will most definitely be the cause of our own extinction as a planet.

We have here the opportunity to change the directive principle of our education from a ‘monkey see, monkey do’ kind of process to an educreation process, where we re-create ourselves as human beings through a directive and deliberate process of re-education, a process of actually washing our brains clean from all the misinformation and cognitive dissonance that we’ve been taught, that we have taught ourselves as a species for eons of time. And from that starting-point of looking at things with fresh eyes, we can make a decision to educate ourselves to look at the world and ourselves with compassion and common sense, to do onto our neighbor as we would have been done onto us and to live according to the principle of placing what is best for all life before our immediate self-interest. We have walked the path of self-interest, we know exactly where it will lead. We understand that destroying ourselves in an attempt to survive can only be the result of a flawed education and that there must be another way. Investigate the proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income system.

Start with yourself. Let the educreation process begin.

 

Educreate yourself here:

The Ultimate History Lesson:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQiW_l848t8

PROPAGANDA | FULL ENGLISH VERSION (2012)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NMr2VrhmFI

The Century of the Self
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7EwXmxpExw

Psywar
http://metanoia-films.org/psywar/

The Trap
http://archive.org/details/AdamCurtis_TheTrap

The Power Principle
http://metanoia-films.org/the-power-principle/

Human Resources: Social Engineering in the 20th Century
http://metanoia-films.org/human-resources/

The Story of Your Enslavement
http://youtu.be/Xbp6umQT58A

Blind Spot
https://vimeo.com/30559203

Inequality for all documentary:
http://www.putlocker.to/watch-inequality-for-all-online-free-putlocker.html

The Four Horsemen:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fbvquHSPJU

On Advertisement and the end of the world:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8gM0Q58iP0

Third World America – Chris Hedges
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drZE65_134g

 

NeknominateWikipedia: Neknominate, also known as neck and nominate, neknomination or neck nomination, is an online drinking game.

Evolving Humanity through Education: DAY 77

Evolving Humanity through Education: DAY 77

We are living in a time where much is being done to improve the efficiency of our education systems, especially through the way teachers teach and the way students learn. John Taylor Gatto, author of the book Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling said something in an interview I recently listened to titled The Greatest History Lesson.

He said that we are facing an ’Anti-Educational school environment’. So how does this fit if we are truly in a time where we are at the peak of human evolution where more emphasis is being placed on making the education system efficient than ever before?

There is and have for well over a decade been an increased focus on using quantitative data to extrapolate information about how students perform academically. This is happening juxtaposed with the unraveling of an unstable economic system and the emergence of globalization. The idea is that focusing on the basic skills of writing, reading and math and finding ways to optimize the processes of learning these subjects, will provide students with an academic advantage making them strong contenders in the global race for knowledge supremacy. We are also seeing that as the global economy destabilizes and many countries face massive unemployment rates, fields of science and technology such as engineering are given priority over more ‘soft’ subjects such as those within humanities and arts.

Every day we hear about the importance of testing our children. Every day new tools are being developed to measure the academic performance of students as well as teachers. Every day we hear about the marvels of human invention and we bask in the glory of seeing another new gadget being developed giving us the ability to act with seemingly superhuman powers. Every day we hear about how we are at the peak of our evolution as a species. Every day billions are spent on building new skyscrapers that reaches farther into space than ever before.

So what do we have to show for it?

The UN environmental program estimates that over 200 species of animals go extinct every day due to the way we as humans live and occupy this planet. According to the website Bread for the world, over 2.6 million children die every year from hunger related issues. The World Health Organization estimates that over 7 million deaths each year are caused by air pollution. And according to the website water.org over 780 million people lack access to clean water.

“I’ve noticed a fascinating phenomenon in my thirty years of teaching: schools and schooling are increasingly irrelevant to the great enterprises of the planet. No one believes anymore that scientists are trained in science classes or politicians in civics classes or poets in English classes. The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions. Although teachers to care and do work very, very hard, the institution is psychopathic — it has no conscience. It rings a bell and the young man in the middle of writing a poem must close his notebook and move to a different cell where he must memorize that humans and monkeys derive from a common ancestor.” – John Taylor Gatto

The industrial revolution took off well over 100 years ago and with its subsequent development of technology and advanced and cutting edge science one would imagine that we would have solved at least some of these devastating problems by now. The enlightenment period where man first started developing the science and economic thought we know today is over 200 years old and yet our global economy continues to denigrate and unravel. We are certainly looking long and hard after the economic prosperity supposedly growing out of Adam Smith’s self-interested ‘rational’ human being. More than 2000 years ago the concept of modern education was born with Plato arguing for the removal of children from their mothers to be raised to serve the State to ensure a harmonious society. Today we see school shooters raised on violent movies and porn taking revenge on the entire system only to off themselves through the ever popular suicide-by-cop method.

Conclusively it is evident that the school environment is indeed anti-educational as John Taylor Gatto stated in The Greatest History Lesson because we haven’t learned one iota from our past mistakes as a species. On the contrary; we celebrate our mistakes as victories and we re-write history to always make ourselves come out as winners and heroes, while the world is disintegrating before our eyes.

Reading, writing and math are certainly important and basic skills that a child must learn through a schooling process, however when the starting-point of learning these skills is to make us competitive on the global market, there is a stark incongruity between what we learn and what is actually needed in this world. Furthermore, as has been seen over and over, the more we focus on controlling and testing these skills to enhance them, the worse children’s ability to read, write and do math have actually become.

The global race for knowledge supremacy is not only redundant in this context but also becomes destructive when its primary focus is on innovation and technological development for the purpose of optimizing profits for the few. There are so many issues around the world that requires our innovative and collaborative abilities to be solved, like the world water crisis and the extinction of countless animal species. We could use this competition to find ways to develop the best possible solutions to optimize life on earth, yet we focus on things that are not only irrelevant to such solutions, but also thwarts and corrupts them because our emphasis on ‘evolution’ and ‘efficiency’ is based on priorities that does not include what is best for all life.

“Children learn what they live. Put kids in a class and they will live out their lives in an invisible cage, isolated from their chance at community; interrupt kids with bells and horns all the time and they will learn that nothing is important or worth finishing; ridicule them and they will retreat from human association; shame them and they will find a hundred ways to get even. The habits taught in large-scale organizations are deadly.” – John Taylor Gatto

If we want to continue living on this earth for generations to come, we must change the focus of our education system, we must change our priorities. Because with the current course that we are on, we are steering ourselves directly into the abyss with a madman at the helm, this delusional and self-aggrandizing ‘captain’ that is the corpus and collective sum of humanity’s efforts and priorities.

Education is one of the single most important factors in changing the course of human evolution, because it is through education that we pass on the values and principles of one generation to the next. We cannot disconnect and separate what is happening at a real and physical level on this planet from what we are teaching in schools, because the first is a result of the latter and considering the current state of the world, it is evident that what we are teaching have nothing to do with how to live effectively in fact. In many respects, what we are showing our children is that we don’t even know what it means to be alive, let alone caring for life. On the contrary it appears that the more knowledgeable we become the crueler our ways of destroying life get and the more delusional we become in thinking and believing that we are advancing and evolving when we are doing anything but.

It is time we change the course of education, starting with ourselves. By taking education into our own hands through understanding the connection between the current state of the world and what we have been taught to prioritize, we can intervene and change course on an individual level. From there it is necessary that we start changing the course of the world-system through standing together with the aim of creating a world that is best for all life, because we understand that nothing is worth anything if Life itself is not prioritized and cared for at a fundamental level. That is what we are working towards in the Equal Life Foundation with the proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income System. So for the love of life, I urge you to investigate what we are proposing and I urge you to embark on this process of discovery and self-education to change your course, understanding that you make up a part of the whole and that we cannot do this without you, without all of us.

Suggested documentaries to watch for further Self-Education:

The Greatest History Lesson:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxCuc-2tfgk

PROPAGANDA | FULL ENGLISH VERSION (2012)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NMr2VrhmFI

The Century of the Self
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7EwXmxpExw

Psywar
http://metanoia-films.org/psywar/

The Trap
http://archive.org/details/AdamCurtis_TheTrap

The Power Principle
http://metanoia-films.org/the-power-principle/

Human Resources: Social Engineering in the 20th Century
http://metanoia-films.org/human-resources/

The Story of Your Enslavement
http://youtu.be/Xbp6umQT58A

Blind Spot
https://vimeo.com/30559203

Inequality for all documentary:
http://www.putlocker.to/watch-inequality-for-all-online-free-putlocker.html

The Four Horsemen:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fbvquHSPJU

On Advertisement and the end of the world:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8gM0Q58iP0

Third World America – Chris Hedges
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drZE65_134g

Sources:

http://www.scu.edu/ethics/publications/submitted/dillon/education_plato_republic.html

http://www.bread.org/hunger/global/

http://www.statisticbrain.com/world-hunger-statistics/

http://apps.who.int/gho/data/node.main.A860

http://water.org/water-crisis/one-billion-affected/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/08/17/un-environment-programme-_n_684562.html

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/biodiversity/elements_of_biodiversity/extinction_crisis/

http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/biodiversity/biodiversity/

 

Why Do We Go To School? DAY 76

Why Do We Go To School? DAY 76

Why do we go to school?

Because our parents told us to? To do well on tests? To make the teacher happy? Or to learn?

As a teacher having to give students’ homework, tests and grades I often experience that the students primary reason for being in school and doing the work is to satisfy me as a teacher. There is a distinct perception that they are doing the work for my sake whether they receive grades for their work or not.

This is a general problem in our school system, not necessarily the part about satisfying the teacher, that’s more of a side effect, but the fact that children don’t actually go to school to learn. One of the primary problems within our schools is an increased focus on global test-results that in many ways have nothing to do with actually teaching the students to learn. Instead students get caught in crossfire between governments trying to win over each other in the global race for knowledge supremacy. Teachers are caught in the same crossfire as the students as their positions are dependent on them bringing in the results often necessary for schools to maintain their funding. So when students do homework to make the teacher happy, most teachers don’t actually experience genuine joy out of receiving essays or grading papers. They simply want to keep their jobs and feel that they’ve achieved something. Obviously there are also many teachers who genuinely enjoy when their students learn something new, but unfortunately the working conditions a teacher face seldom allow us to focus on children learning. This should in itself be quite alarming, as the primary purpose with education after all ought to be learning.

Unfortunately it is not only the students that are focused on learning just to make the teacher happy or pass the tests. I see this even with parents and it has the effect that when homework is turned in, it is done so from a starting-point of being ‘passable’ with the least amount of work and independent effort put into it. The parents of course have been indoctrinated in the exact same system, so it is no wonder that they too emphasize making the teacher happy.

We can see the outflows of this disjointed relationship to learning in adults that have been processed through the machinery of the ‘education-factory’ and are now coming out  as packaged products ready to step into the job market and society at large.

We focus on making our bossed happy, to satisfy our partners needs, whether it is a need for emotional intimacy, blowjob fantasies or a secure life. We try to make our friends happy, to show them that we care and generally to make everyone else happy by presenting ourselves in our best Sunday clothes on a daily basis, not to mention forcing ourselves into the cookie dough cutters of what a ‘real man’ or ‘real woman’ looks according to the authority that is glossy magazines and morning talk shows on TV.

An explanation as to why we in school focus on ‘making the teacher happy’ is that this phenomenon stems from an era where teachers had supreme authority and command over students and more or less without supervision could decide a student’s academic faith based on personal preferences and random bias. In some schools this might even still be the case to some degree. Now we simply have the added bonus of going to school not only to make our teachers happy but also to excel in test results.

The new paradigm in education is a marvel of irony. While lawmakers and think tank experts and politicians claim that increased testing is the road to success and that this is the path to more children learning better, learning more and learning faster, the results we are seeing show the exact opposite. In Sweden for example the recent PISA results sent a shock wave of dismay through the country because Sweden is at the bottom when it comes to reading, writing and math abilities. No other country has fallen as much as Sweden has over a ten-year period when it comes to test scores in math. And to add to the irony, this has happened juxtaposed with an increased emphasis on tests in the Swedish education system. It is even more ironic because Sweden is the country with the highest income equality in the world (though this is also dropping) as well as being one of the richest countries.

I meet students on a daily basis whose entire focus is to do the least amount of homework, while being alarmingly stressed about next week’s tests and all they can think about is when they can go home and play computer games because that is the only time they feel free and relaxed to do what they want. So when they talk about computer games, their faces light up, they are engaged and their insight and understanding of the game is often expansive and reflective. It surprises them when I as a teacher take an interest in learning about Minecraft or World of Tanks and while I emphasize embracing the students interests, I also see that it is alarming that the only subjects that students express enjoyment about are those taking place outside of school.

I am sure that each and every one of us enjoys learning. Expanding one’s understanding and skills is in itself enjoyable but how many of us can say that this is what we associate with going to school? When we enjoy learning, we learn faster and we integrate new information at a much more substantial level. The thing is that a passion for learning doesn’t necessarily have to be linked to a predisposed enjoyment for the subject. When I was in the 7. Grade I hated German (a mandatory foreign language subject in Denmark), not only because I found my teacher extremely boring and prickly but also because of having adopted an entire history of resentment towards Germany because of the events taking place during WW that I wasn’t even consciously aware of. But in the 9. Grade I had moved to a new school and got a new German teacher who was absolutely in love with Germany. She even took us on an extended fieldtrip to Germany where I got to live with a family for a week and I discovered a Germany I had no idea existed. She was lively and charismatic and through her passion for the German language I eventually overturned my hatred for the classes, the language and the country to an unconditional acceptance and enjoyment of learning.

So let’s imagine for a moment an education system that focused on learning, an education system where schools and teachers wouldn’t have to worry about funding or resources because this would be managed according to a ‘Best for All’ principle, an education system that wouldn’t have as its primary objective to get ahead in the global race for knowledge supremacy, an education system that places the children’s ability to learn first.

Now – imagine being a child and going to school in such a system. You might not even have to rush in the morning, but perhaps you would get up early any way simply because you enjoy learning and want to learn as much as possible, participate in projects or develop new ideas together with other students. Imagine a school with adequate space, a school that would prioritize nice cozy places to sit and read, abundant science and art labs. Imagine how, if you have a passion for astronomy or comic books that you would be able to immerse yourself fully in studying this subject with other students and with teachers who would assist and guide you to expand beyond your current skills and understanding of the subject. Imagine what a school would be like if the primary emphasis was the enjoyment of learning. Would you do your homework? Would you strive to excel? Would you want to go to school and learn?

It might sound Utopian but the fact of the matter is that it is possible to establish such an education system and that we would all be better off if we did. It wouldn’t even require a massive change because the schools are here, the resources are here, the teachers are here and as a teacher I would argue that most teachers would welcome such an opportunity with open arms. What is however missing, is the most important ingredient required to make such a change a reality: the starting-point with which our school systems are managed and the underlying policies that influence them.

The joy of learning is at the brink of extinction like a wild animal that can’t sustain itself in its natural habitat because a world of hostile urban invaders threatens to swallow it whole.

With a Guaranteed Living Income System we can bring back the joy of learning to the forefront of our education system by making education a top priority. Because based on the Principle of what is ‘Best for All’ we understand that education and learning, where we really develop and expand ourselves as human beings, is an incremental part of preventing the total destruction of our habitat, this earth, and thus ourselves.

Because if we don’t, then it will be too late and we won’t be here to see what could have been possible. We won’t be here to see the smiles on our children’s faces when they wake up to go to school. We won’t be here to go to school again ourselves and start over and re-discover our joy of learning.

So let’s not wait until it is too late.

Here is the proposal for the Guaranteed Living Income System. I urge you to read it and if you agree – jump on board and joins us as we steer the sinking ship that is this world to shore.

 

Socialized to Function in a Dysfunctional Society: DAY 75

Socialized to Function in a Dysfunctional Society: DAY 75

“The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.Khalil Gibran

Education is the process through which values; behavioral patterns and world-views are passed on from one generation to the next. In this context education is supposed to be a process where we learn the ‘best practices’ from our elders to effectively become integrated into society and thus maintain the growth, evolution and prosperity given to us by those who came before us. However we are facing an unprecedented era where the generations being born now are facing a world that is worse on all accounts than the one their parents were born into. As such it is evident that the process of passing on best practices has failed and what is now being transferred from one generation to the next is dysfunctional at best and destructive at worst. In this blog-post we are looking at the concept of socialization in relation to transference of dysfunctional values, behavioral patterns and world-views and how and why it is we have come to take these for granted in the context of the family system.

In this blog-post we will look at how the construct of the family system and the role it plays in the world. However this discussion is not so much about the concept of family in itself, as it is about the way the family system and construct is used (and misused) to promote and refabricate certain aspects of human nature, whether tacitly or strategically that in no way are to the best interest of all.

In 1966 Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann wrote a book called The Social Construction of Reality. This book has become a staple and classic in the field of sociology for its exploration of how we create the reality we perceive, experience and exist in, through social construction, Berger and Luckmann emphasize the process of socialization and they explore how a child through processes of socialization becomes ‘a person’ that is integrated into the culture and society it is a part of. This reveals not only the construct behind family-structures but also behind school systems, knowledge systems, cultures and the entity of society as a whole.

Berger and Luckmann describes with exact precision the social constructs that influence how a child is integrated into the family, culture and society and how it comes to accept itself as an integrated part of its world. They thus define socialization as follows: “The individual… is not born a member of society. He… becomes a member of society. In the life of every individual… there is a temporal sequence, in the course of which he is inducted into participation in the social dialectic” (p. 129) “By ‘successful socialization’ we mean the establishment of a high degree of symmetry between objective and subjective reality” (p. 163)

Berger and Luckmann describe how the child is integrated and will integrate itself into society and develop an identity based on socialization processes. They describe how the child is born into environment, where the world is represented by ‘significant others’, who most often will be immediate family members who’re in charge of introducing the child to the world. So the child has no choice – it’s total existence is dependent on these people and it is upon this basis that the premises of socialization is founded. The primary others decide who the child is going be and how the child is going see the world around it, what it will prefer, what it will desire and fear and they do so simply according to their own programming explicitly as well as implicitly. I am sure that many parents for example can relate to having said that one would never do onto one’s child as one’s parents have done onto oneself and yet find oneself doing exactly this as a parent with little sense of control or direct intention.

The construct of family exists as a specifically influential source of input, because the child is by its family not only is introduced into a specific culture, but also into a specific interpretation of that culture. Two of the most important aspects of this process, is according to Berger and Luckmann the programming of language and the emotional relationship between caretaker and child.

“The child identifies with the significant others in a variety of emotional ways. Whatever they may be, internalization occurs only as identification occurs. The child takes on the significant others roles and attitudes, that is, internalizes them and makes them his own. And by this identification with significant others the child becomes capable of identifying himself, of acquiring a subjectively coherent and plausible identity. In other words, the self is a reflected entity, reflecting the attitudes first taken on by significant others towards it, the individual becomes what he is addressed as by as his significant others. The child learns that he IS what he is called”. (p. 152)

Considering the implications of the quote above, it is no wonder we keep recreating the same dysfunctional family constructs, where we are born, never being able to escape “the sins of the fathers”, be that genetically or socially through this streamlined and automated process of absolute indoctrination. Because as we’re socialized into existence, our entire life is dependent on us fitting in with these people, of us mimicking them as well as eventually taken on their habits and preferences as our own. The more our name is repeated back to us with an adult pointing a finger directly at our chest, the more we come to identify ourselves as this name given to us by our family. We have no choice, there is no alternative.

Berger and Luckmann also discuss another level of influence, the secondary socialization in which the child is now expanding from the primary influence of its family to now being integrated in the world around it. This happens for example when we enter the school system and thus come face to face with other cultures and start expanding our vocabulary. These two levels of socialization explains according to Berger and Luckmann the, often contradicting, preferences a person can experience where they on one hand for example believe that it is bad to steal based on their family’s moral codex and on the other hand they will also value being accepted by a group of friends that steal. An inner conflict is created in the child and the question becomes which group they gain most from associating themselves with in terms of securing their survival in the world. The difference between the way that primary and secondary socialization affect us however, is that the child within the primary socialization perceives the significant others as ‘THE world’, where they when integrating with school mates and co-workers, are aware of these being but ‘A PART OF’ a greater world. This also explains why many people may go on some form of a ‘Rumspringa’ in their youth only to return to the values taught to them by their families later in life and especially when they have children themselves.

What is created on the basis of this system of transference is a closed system of repetition where we keep re-producing ourselves generation after generation.

And within doing so, we are continuously recreating a dysfunctional world with dysfunctional human beings under the delusion that we have got everything under control. No one can even remember who started these cycles of dysfunction, let alone how to stop, so we try – generation after generation, to redeem the damages and make the perfect seed, the perfect child – but all that happens is that we make more and more of the same mess. And so we suppress, mold, lie, deceive, manipulate, try, compromise – with whatever means possible to get by, as our parents have done before theirs before them.

The family system is, next to the education system, one of the primary engines that drives the reproduction of the systems of inequality that we’ve accepted as the foundation for our existence on this Earth. It is within the families and as the families that we justify who we’ve become as that inequality – when we refuse to share or where we feel forced to steal or why we work until we bleed. It is where everything that is wrong with this world is justified as legitimate, ‘natural’ and ‘normal’ and through which we come to accept it as such.

But we forget that on this earth, as a whole, we all compile into a single nucleus one could call ‘one big family’ – a family that is connected by the blood that is this earth, consisting of the exact same molecules and atoms as the life we see around us – yet we treat this family as an intruder in our house instead of embracing it and each other. And ironically, from this perspective, it is true that we can only rely on family to survive, that family in deed do come first, because without us stepping up to the plate of taking care of our family, the plants, the earth, the animals, each other, who will we be? The word Family originates from the Latin word Familia and literally means ‘the servants of a household’ and was only later giving it’s meaning ‘connected by blood’. Are we thus merely ‘servants’ of the ‘household’ that is this system of dysfunction and inequality or will we re-define what family means into the unconditional support system it was supposed to be, bringing ourselves together and embracing what is here as a whole in mutual support and care?

The solution to the transference of dysfunctional family systems is twofold: on one hand it is imperative that we as adults change values, our behavioral patterns, world-views and thus the foundation of ourselves. Unfortunately most of us have been brought up to believe that parents are by default ‘right’ when it comes to passing values on to their children, so this might take quite a process of many of us, to actually start looking at what we are transferring to our children as opposed to that which we’d like to believe that we’re transferring to them. Here one need to look no further than to the general dysfunctional state of the world as it currently exist to see one’s own responsibility in creating the mess, whether on a tacit, implicit or direct level. On the other hand, what is required is also a systemic change because ‘who’ we are is interdependent with the systems we exist and live in. If we live in a system that promotes competition for survival, a system that promotes war, a system that encourages you to abuse your own body only to offer you a pill to make the consequence go away – that obviously makes it difficult to change on an individual level.

As parents we are expected to automatically know how to care for our child and bring it up to become an effective human being. There is an innate belief and validation of one’s skills as a human being as though simply by being able to reproduce, we are automatically also able to teach another how to live effectively in this world. But how many of us actually live effectively? How many of us actually live based on the directive principle of what is Best for All? How many of us have not transferred our own emotional baggage to our children inadvertently only to see them grow up to make the exact it mistakes we did? Simply because we are a parent, an adult or even a teacher educated to teach children there is no surety that we will be able to raise a child to become an effective human being. If it was so, we would have already done it and the world would be in a completely different state than it is in right now.

Therefore – it is imperative that we realize how we have taken for granted that parents and teachers alike automatically will do what is best, not only for our children but for the world as a whole and that we start deconstructing and changing the paradigms, behavioral patterns and values that aren’t contributing to changing world-system from being dysfunctional and self-destructive to being based on the practices that is best for all on the planet. The family system is not supposed to be a place where parents are left alone to raise their children in isolation based on their own dysfunctional upbringing. It is supposed to be a place from which a child is able learn and grow an develop based on seeing examples of what it means to live effectively in its parents and from there creating itself as an independent and sovereign human being.

Until next time, I implore you to read up on the Proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income system – a real and sustainable alternative to the current political and economic paradigm. And I implore that you watch the following series of documentaries that highlight the level of depravity and delusion currently entrenching our societies and teach us to value Life as anything but Life.

 

The Skills We Need to Change the World: DAY 74

The Skills We Need to Change the World: DAY 74

human capital As the human race has developed, it is our cognitive and mental skills we have given the most credit for our ‘evolution’ – an evolution that has lead us into space and virtual realities and through which we have concocted unimaginable technologies and inventions, but that has also left the earth scorn and wretched. So what are the skills most needed to function effectively and optimize our living conditions on this planet?

In The Republic[i] Ancient Greek philosopher Plato famously said that:

“The society we have described can never grow into a reality or see the light of day, and there will be no end to the troubles of states, or indeed, my dear Glaucon, of humanity itself, till philosophers become rulers in this world, or till those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers, and political power and philosophy thus come into the same hands.”

Plato claimed that we all have our righteous place in the world where those who are most developed within cognitive skills (such as philosophizing) are naturally meant to rule and where those whose skills belong more to the physical realm naturally must have inferior functions in society.

The question is: was he right?

What are the most important skills we as human beings require to function effectively in this world?

In the article Reconceptualizing Human Capita from (1997l[ii], sociologists Nancy Folbre and Paula England discuss the concept of Capabilities in context to the concept of Human Capital to discuss the basic skills that we as humans need to function effectively in the world. They ask why cognitive capabilities are prioritized as being more important than other capabilities and in this article I discuss their perspectives in the context to the implementation of a Guaranteed Living Income System. Folbre and England’s emphasis on the importance of a more equal valuation of capabilities highlights the necessity and utility of implementing a Living Income System – here especially in the context of education, not only of our children, but also of ourselves because that is an absolute imperative for us to be able to change the course the world is currently on. We might not be navigators or steersmen or captains, but we’re certainly driving the ‘boat’ that is this world and the question we have to ask ourselves is whether it is worth it to sink just to stay on the course we’ve set for ourselves or whether we dare turning the entire machinery around, not knowing where we will go except for anywhere but into the direction from which we came?

Let’s have a brief look at Folbre and England’s definition of capabilities:

Folbre and England define a capability, as a skill set that requires effort from the individual to be developed and that, once applied and implemented enables one to function effectively in society. Folbre and England describe four different types of capabilities: physical, cognitive, self-regulating and caring capabilities.

Physical Capabilities

The physical capabilities are the basic practical skills required to be able to care for oneself at physical level. These capabilities include but are not limited to: cooking food, getting dressed, cleaning the house, knowing when to respond to pain etc. However with these basic physical functioning capabilities, Folbre and England contends that they are often not valued, discussed or emphasized be it in social science, economics or even politics, and they suggest that this can be because of the tradition in human history of valuing “mind over matter”. (This is a topic that is exhaustibly discussed in the academic world, c.f. René Descartes famous quote: “I think, therefore I am”.) [i] I am not going to go deeper into this discussion here.)

Cognitive Capabilities

Cognitive capabilities include what is considered ‘formal education’ that according to Folbre and England has an extensive impact on one’s income earning abilities. One reason for this is as mentioned above that cognitive capabilities focuses on mental rather than physical skills which are given substantially more emphasis in the education system, hence the rise of the ‘knowledge economy’ in recent years. Besides the capabilities that is achieved through education, such as reading, writing and math, Folbre and England also describe other capabilities such as house hold economy, the ability to see the cause and effect of one’s actions and points such as mental health and emotions as part of the cognitive capabilities.

Self-Regulation Capabilities

Self-Regulation capabilities are based on the ability to be self-disciplined and Folbre and England suggests that this capability is the basis for the other capabilities, because without self-discipline, one is not capable to develop for example the ability to write. When self-discipline is developed one become able to perform tasks that one does not necessarily want to do or that one experience as difficult. Folbre and England suggest that self-regulation, as a capability is not valued in the economic system as  human capital because economic theory would define self-regulation as a preference and not as a skill. Folbre and England however argues that self-regulation in fact is both a skill and a preference through for example pointing to how becoming skilled and enjoying oneself once skilled is mutually constitutive.

Caring Capabilities

Caring capabilities is described by Folbre and England as a ‘service’ that differs from the other capabilities in that it also contains an element of altruism. They argue that having this capability might not (only) benefit oneself but also others and even that one within this is capable of expressing care without it being of any immediate benefit for oneself, something that according to Folbre and England, refutes the neo-classical notion of rational self-interest. While caring capabilities does require the other capabilities for it to function effectively, it also requires qualities such altruism affection and warmth to be expressed effectively. Folbre and England argues that the main point to make note of in relation to caring capabilities that even though caring as a ‘service’ to others can be exchanged on the labor market, is that it is still valued as less than other types of skills.

Why are Capabilities important for society?

Folbre and England argues that capabilities are dependent on their social embeddedness and as such exists as a form of social capital. They claim that both new and traditional economic thinking have “underestimated the social and political nature that effects which children will have their capabilities developed the most” and that as such that “resource constraints should not be ignored.” What this means is that an assumption within neoclassical economic thinking (that which our current world system is operating from) is that everyone intrinsically have ‘equal opportunities’ to develop skills and capabilities. Everyone is in essence ‘equals’ as human beings within having an intrinsic rational self-interest. Folbre and England however highlights the fact that the conditions we are born into determine – to an utmost extend – what opportunities we are able to learn from and develop skills and capabilities within. These conditions are created through a political and financial system that in turn is created by us as human beings. It is not a system created by nature itself. Who and what we live as human beings is thus something we decide individually and collectively in interdependence.

Revaluing our Capabilities

As mentioned in the beginning of this article, for a long time physical work has been disregarded as ‘crude’ and ‘simple’. This is reflected in how people that primarily work with the physical receive a much lower wage than those working in the ‘knowledge economy’. When our children are sent to school, one of the primary points they are to learn, is to disconnect the mind from the body and use the body as a tool for the mind to expand, something that can be seen for example in how we have to learn early on to still and listening to the teacher while suppressing the body’s urge to jump or sing or move. And as a result, in all educational policies it is thus the cognitive capabilities that are prioritized which can be seen in how all forms of craft classes, art, music and sports are minimized and cut back. But when looking at what it is the children are learning about the world, that which they are supposed to learn, to enable themselves to live as effective human beings, it is all focused on the mental processes and capabilities. Children are expected to grow up and direct their physical world and reality, from within and as the mind, while the body remains a mere vehicle, a tool. In very few schools do children learn about their own bodies or how they can create an effective relationship to their bodies. Nor do they learn how to cook, clean or care for animals.

Children do not learn how to interact with nature either, with animals or with the bodies of other children and adults. Instead they learn to disconnect themselves from the physical, to use the body for competitive sports or transportation and as they grow up, they are expected to know how to move and care for their bodies, without actually being in (contact with) their bodies or having learned how the body functions or operates. They might learn about health regimes and that “milk is good for you”, but they don’t learn to feel in their stomach when some food is not supportive for them and then being able to make the directive decision not to eat this food. They do not learn to touch or support themselves or each other in ways to alleviate pain or simply for enjoyment.

We can thus draw a straight line from how the physical is disregarded in the current education system to how the state the world currently is in. What thrive are mind-based designs and constructs at the expense of the physical world – the real world – in which and we live and that we cannot live without. The aspect of physical functioning or capabilities thus reaches beyond far learning basic skills – it involves caring for the entire planet as well as for each other and ourselves.

According to Folbre and England, self-regulation and discipline is both a preference and a skill. It becomes a preference when we discover the joy of completing a task or in learning something new. But as education is designed in the current system, the sole emphasis is on the skill aspect of self-discipline, where we are skilling ourselves to be able to compete with others in an unstable job market. This competition is based on fear of surviving and in many countries that is what enables children to remain disciplined – not because they are enjoying it and expanding within it. Furthermore, the way education systems are designed, children and adults are most often running on tight deadlines where textbooks have to be consumed with the speed of light giving little room to digesting and contemplating the information for oneself.

A Living Income Perspective on Education and Capabilities

A Living Income perspective on education is that learning is about expanding and exploring oneself, alone and together with others – teaching is about standing as a living example, not a regurgitator of indoctrinating brainwash that only has the purpose of creating stupid obedient consumer slaves. Furthermore: both physical and cognitive capabilities should be developed in a variety of ways that incorporate physical learning with focus on developing capabilities that are Best for All as well as the individual in a setting that is not based on fear of not surviving, but instead on self-expression, dedication and openness. If self-discipline is taught without self-consideration or direction, we educate followers that will create secret inner lives where they can live out their desires in shame and create workers that only do exactly as much as they have to for then to go home and leave the rest to someone else. Instead we can educate ourselves (and our children) to develop a self-discipline that is based on dignity, self-integrity and on doing what is Best for All.

A mentioned by Folbre and England, the caring sector is highly underpaid compared to occupations that favor cognitive capabilities. This includes teachers, nurses and all other professions where it is the care for other humans (and animals) that are the primary work function. What this means is that Care in itself is highly under-prioritized in our societies, something that can clearly be seen in the many cases of negligence and lack of funding in many care facilities. We are as a species underdeveloped in our ability to care for others (as well as ourselves and the planet).

We live in a world that does not prioritize what is Best for All – that in fact demotes the people who work for what is Best for All, and as such stand in direct opposition to creating a world (and an education system) that is Best for All. By implementing a Guaranteed Living Income System that in fact is founded upon the principle of always choosing what is Best for All, caring will be a basic fundamental priority as it is embedded directly into the very notion of what is Best for All and in the practical policies developed therewith. By bringing caring into the forefront of a political and economic (and educational) system, we can no longer deny or ignore the suffering of others. We can no longer justify the exploitation of some for benefit of others. We can no longer push and pressure ourselves to only excel and not consider the consequences of our thrusting through the earth. Finally we no longer need to compete, deceive and fight each other to survive.

In relation to care work Folbre and England emphasizes this capability as one that benefits all and as such is Best for All. Within this they bring up an interesting perspective, that there perhaps are other ways to make care work more valuable for society and in this they wish to challenge neoclassical definitions of human capital. Instead they suggest collective strategies for example within using taxes or policies to create inputs that emphasizes care as a capability.

In the development of an Guaranteed Living Income System, we are researching and developing policies based on the practical and physical capabilities that each human being requires to live a dignified life and the implementations of such policies in our society, based on what is Best for All at a practical, physical level. It is open for anyone to participate, anyone who is willing and interested in creating a world, where children can thrive and learn how to support themselves and the earth to live a life of self-expression, dignity, care and enjoyment – a life that in all ways will be Best for All.

 

What They Never Taught You in School That Could Change Your Life: DAY 73

What They Never Taught You in School That Could Change Your Life: DAY 73

Education for a better worldEducation. What comes to mind when you look at this word? Restraint? Boredom? The Road to Success?

When we look at the word ‘education’ most of us see either the years of education we have behind us or the education we are taking now or that we’re about to take. We see dusty classroom and teachers and textbooks and endless homework with little to no connection to reality.

When we look at the word ‘education’ we see something that someone else expect from us, something we’re doing for someone else; our parents, our teachers, our future employers. We see education as a requirement, a duty, a chore and an obligation. But do ever see education as something we do for ourselves? Do we ever see education as something that happens outside of school, as something we do voluntarily because we want to learn and grow and expand? Have we ever asked what the meaning with education really is?

The word education comes from a combination of the Latin prefix ex– meaning “out” and the suffix ducere that means, “to lead”. The word can therefore at its root be defined as the process of ‘bringing out’ or ‘leading forth’. (Source: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=educate)

This is interesting because education – the process of learning – happens in nearly every moment of our lives. Every time we are introduced to new environments, new words, new people, we learn. Often that form of education isn’t even something that takes place with a deliberate aim for us to learn. It’s simply a process that unfolds naturally as we grow up and expand ourselves from the wombs of our mothers and into the world. Unfortunately, a lot of what we learn is misguided and redundant. We stuff our heads full with useless information from our receptiveness towards the endless regurgitations on our TV screens to the indoctrination happening in classrooms all over the world.

We are lead forth by a system that clearly doesn’t have the best interest of this earth or its inhabitants as its highest priority – including ourselves as human beings. Instead what are prioritized are ‘technological innovations’, the ‘glory of human evolution’, the ‘race to space’ and any and all forms of entertainment that we can possibly preoccupy ourselves with.

When we are born and we embark on the journey of getting to know this world the first things we learn are not how to care for this planet or how to respect our physical bodies. We don’t learn how to effectively communicate or how to develop or grow within our unique expression. We don’t learn how to form relationships in such a way that we don’t exist in conflicts with others. We barely learn effective living skills, as only a privileged few of us are educated on nutrition or how to do your taxes, let alone understanding the law and financial system. Instead our daughters learn dance moves from Miley Cyrus in a skin colored leotard on MTV and our sons learn from watching porn that the epitome of masculinity is to ejaculate ferociously on a girls face. This may sound rough, but it is only the tip of the iceberg and from what we learn and even more importantly, from what we DON’T learn, we can see the devastating consequences escalating on a daily basis in our reality.

The series that we will be walking here and that this post is an introduction for will be about Real Education – the kind of education that we all should have gotten, the kind of education that is imperative for the prevention of the destruction of our habitat, the extinction of the animal kingdom and total denigration of our own species.  Educating ourselves and our children on how to care for Life at a fundamental level ought to be the most basic form of education and the first subject on the curriculum. What we ought to bring forth in our children – and in ourselves – is the care and nurture for life that this earth so urgently needs. That is the education we will be focusing on in this series.

Until next time, I implore you to read up on the Proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income system – a real and sustainable alternative to the current political and economic paradigm. And I implore that you watch the following series of documentaries that highlight the level of depravity and delusion currently entrenching our societies and teach us to value Life as anything but Life.

Inequality for all documentary:
http://www.putlocker.to/watch-inequality-for-all-online-free-putlocker.html

The Four Horsemen:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fbvquHSPJU

On Advertisement and the end of the world:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8gM0Q58iP0

Third World America – Chris Hedges
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drZE65_134g

The Power Principle
http://metanoia-films.org/the-power-principle/

The Trap
http://archive.org/details/AdamCurtis_TheTrap

Psywar
http://metanoia-films.org/psywar/

Human Resources: Social Engineering in the 20th Century
http://metanoia-films.org/human-resources/

The Century of the Self: Part 1- Happiness Machines
http://youtu.be/prTarrgvkjo

 

What Happened to Apprenticeship Learning? DAY 72

What Happened to Apprenticeship Learning? DAY 72

In the last post we discussed the concept of the teachers as a ’pedagogue’, referring to the slaves who in ancient Greece would take boys to school. In this post we are exploring the concept of ’mastering’ or ’apprenticeship’ as a tradition that is slowly but surely is disappearing from the education system and we will discuss the consequence of this development.

In Spanish the word ’Maestro’ means ’teacher’. Germanic languages use the word ’Mester’ or ’Meister’ learning’ referring to learning within an apprenticeship. Interestingly enough, the word ’apprentice’ comes from the Latin word  ‘apprehendere’ that literally means ‘to seize’.

A master in the context of this discussion is someone who has mastered a skill or a field of expertise and who is now teaching by example to someone who is inexperienced within the particular field or craft the master is teaching. This is the basic principle of apprenticeship. It is an old tradition where especially crafts are passed down from skilled elders to the younger members of society. In the past, apprenticeships functioned as an imperative part of ensuring that skills weren’t lost from one generation to the next, especially in times before the mass publication of the written word.

Many fields of craftsmanship still use apprenticeships such as within arts and in many vocational fields, but these positions are becoming more and more rare as education increasingly rely on literary forms of transferring information. One of the consequences of this development is that illiterate people and people with learning disabilities who previously could have found work within vocational fields, now have great difficulties finding work because even the simplest jobs now require a certain standard of literary. The reason for this is the aforementioned transition from apprenticeship based learning to a focus on literacy where for example a prospect mechanic now have to rely more on books than on being showed how to repair a car from a skilled mechanic. Now – there is nothing wrong about wanting people to be able to read and write, and it is certainly practical to have written manuals instead of relying solely on a master-apprentice based learning process. However at the same time, innumerable studies have shown that most people learn best from physically working with a problem or task rather than simply reading about it or working with it only on a theoretical level.  As Aristotle so famously said: “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”

So why is apprenticeship based learning taking a back seat to more theoretical forms of learning?

One of the reasons is that the global society is moving more and more towards a ‘knowledge economy’ that relies on intellectual capital, abstract information and complex analyses with the purposes of for example managing society more effectively and create profit optimization. This is obviously happening juxtaposed with a transition to more digital forms of communication where interaction happens in a virtual rather than a physical space.

Apprenticeship learning has its limits in the context that we can only be in one place at once. When an apprentice or student learn from a ‘master’ in a particular field, they are bound to the laws of physics in that physical training and labor can only happen as fast as we are physically able to learn and manufacture products. An apprentice also seldom has the opportunity to travel around the world and learn from various skilled experts in their field and is most often limited to train under only one or a couple of masters. With theoretical learning there is a greater sense of flexibility through which the student can almost virtually ‘travel in space and time’ through reading historical books or gather information from many different sources across the world.

As such, there is a value in learning through abstract and theoretical sources of information because it has the possibility of speeding up and expanding one’s learning process – which is also what we are seeing with the development of the knowledge economy, where we for example through technology more rapidly are able to develop new solutions.

But what should and could have been a ‘healthy balance’ between physical and theoretical learning based on an understanding and appreciation of the unique value of and interdependence of the two forms of learning, the theoretical has now become dominant within the global society.

We are witnessing a diminishment and down prioritization of physical forms of learning (such as through apprenticeships) where more theoretical forms of learning are seen as more valuable and attractive. This obviously isn’t anything new, but the consequences of this development are becoming more evident and devastating, not only for people but certainly also for the environment, the animal and plant life on the planet.

On February 27 2014, The British newspaper The Daily Mirror published an article on the lack of apprenticeships where they referred to a study on apprenticeships that revealed that “only 6.6 per cent of young people aged 16 to 24 were in training schemes – one of the lowest levels in western countries. At the same time 54 per cent of school leavers said they would like to take up an apprenticeship but could not get a place.” (Source: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/lack-apprenticeships-holding-back-uk-3187201#ixzz2ui3FjAm1 )

As such there is a distinct incongruence between what is recommended by schools and the educational community in general and what priorities held, not only by corporations who obviously focuses on profit-optimization more than anything else, but also by governments who seems focus more on getting students into universities in order to compete in the global race for the knowledge economy, rather than actually securing employment for their citizens.

Another (albeit more cynical) explanation for why apprenticeships are being down prioritized is that governments and corporations are increasingly off-shoring physical labor to other countries, leaving few jobs available within the fields of manual labor for the countries own citizens.

Just like all roads lead to Rome, all failures and flaws within the education system leads back to a prioritization of money over life. Apprenticeship learning is important in so many ways, not only within vocational fields but also in theoretical fields and sciences. When apprenticeships disappear we are left with manuals and standards often written by people who aren’t even working in the field they are writing instructions for. And I am sure many of us can relate to the experience of coming out of the university-bubble and onto the job-market only to realize that most of what we’ve learned is entirely redundant in practical reality and that most of the things we are now required to do, are things we never learned in school and that we now have to start over with learning basic skills such as interacting and collaborating with others and solving problems in unexpected situations. There are so many things we can only learn once we start working with it on a practical level and the fact that we have neglected this side of education is indicative of the problems we are collectively facing in the world. Let me give an example: It is difficult to for example create standards about teaching or childcare or even to theorize about educational environments and material. Because each moment and each student is unique and if we as teachers enter the class room distanced from the actual physical space we are occupying, lost in some mental head-space of theorizing about child development and didactic methods, we stop being authentic, we stop being real, and we stop being able to see the real human beings standing in front of us, not to mention the ability to unconditionally asses a situation within the context of a unique moment. And as a result, what happens? Children become distant and start preferring virtual spaces and fantastical realms embedded within games and movies because the reality they are faced with presented to them by teachers and parents isn’t real, isn’t authentic and doesn’t in fact see them.

It is important to consider that education and learning isn’t only about integrating and being able to juggle abstract and complex theoretical information in one’s mind. Most importantly, education is about becoming effective at living in the world as well as being able to make effective decisions in one’s own life and in co-existing with others. When we focus so much on the theoretical aspect of life, we distance ourselves from the practical physical reality – with one of the most alarming consequences being children who grow up to become apathetic, passive and unequipped at effectively directing their own lives.

Mastering skills of any kind requires people leading by examples where children get to learn by doing and are shown on a practical level how to effectively solve problems. This is one of the basic foundations of the apprenticeship principle and the fact that physical and practical learning is being down prioritized shows how we are more and more distancing ourselves from the practical reality – with real life consequences where we aren’t equipped to handle natural catastrophes on a global level, but even on an individual level where we as new parents for example have little to no skills on how to effectively raise or care for a child or for example manage our personal finances effectively.

A teacher is supposed to be a master of sorts, someone who has mastered a particular skill or field of expertise and who can pass this skill and knowledge onto their students. But with standardized curricular and education policies rooted in competition for profit-optimization in the global knowledge economy, actual learning takes a backseat to the detriment of our students.  The same is the case with parents. Parents are in essence the first ‘masters’ a child encounters. Being born into this world we are novices, apprentices looking to those who came before us as examples. When these people haven’t been taught effectively, we are facing a dire situation that gets worse with each generation as the ‘blind lead the blind’ and we are left with a society of people relying on standardized manuals and ‘instinctive’ reaction patterns that they’ve got no control over because there are no one to show them how to effectively discern information or solve problems at a practical level. While the concept of apprenticeships may be relevant on certain levels within education and on other levels not, it is evident that we require people in this world who have effectively mastered the skills needed to change this world into a place that is best for all and that we each become such masters, both in our own lives and in the various fields within which we work – so that we can stand as examples to the children that are born into this world and we together can change the course (and discourse) of the world with a direction focused on making the earth the best possible habitat for all living beings. Aren’t those the first and most important skills we ought to teach ourselves?

Investigate the Proposal for a Guaranteed Living Income System – a proposal for a system that has the potential to fundamentally change the concept of ‘work’ from something that we do to survive to something that we do to support and expand ourselves to thrive and LIVE.

Sources:

http://basicincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/basic-income-guaranteed-and-teaching/

http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/01/theres-a-cheaper-more-effective-way-to-train-teachers/282778/

http://rt.com/news/uk-illiterate-youth-jobs-277/

http://www.streetdirectory.com/travel_guide/8763/self_improvement_and_motivation/the_shameful_secret_of_illiteracy_in_america.html

http://cogprints.org/637/1/LearnbyDoing_Schank.html

http://www.bbc.com/news/education-24553569

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/lack-apprenticeships-holding-back-uk-3187201

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Educational_Theory_of_Apprenticeship

http://www.investopedia.com/terms/k/knowledge-economy.asp

http://www.stanford.edu/group/song/papers/powell_snellman.pdf

http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/19981/1/The_Returns_to_Apprenticeship_Training.pdf

http://www.forbes.com/sites/gcaptain/2012/11/14/why-apprenticeships-are-the-fastest-way-to-acquire-skills/

 

Should You Send Your Child to Preschool? DAY 71

Should You Send Your Child to Preschool? DAY 71

Someone asked me recently about whether or not it was the best for their child to go to preschool. The child was experiencing a lot of resistance towards going to preschool and would cry when the parent left them at the school. I am sure many parents can relate to that scenario of having to leave one’s crying child in the hands of a stranger hoping that everything will go well.

I obviously cannot tell anyone whether or not it is best to send his or her child to preschool or not. Most parents also do not even have the luxury of making that choice. So what I will be discussing here is instead the concept of preschool education as a general point and how it relates to society as a whole.

Recently I also talked to a mother whose one and a half year old child had just started in preschool. It was a cold morning and as is tradition here in Sweden in many preschools we started the morning outside with the children playing in the snow. So I got to see the entire process of the mother leaving the crying child in the arms of a preschool teacher, reluctantly leaving in the hopes that her child would stop crying as soon as she left, nervously looking over her shoulder as she walked away. The child didn’t stop crying but aimlessly walked around on the cold ground, teachers trying to comfort her without effect. Furthermore, at the preschool there are a lot of temps working, people without any formal education in childcare, so children often face having to be with adults that they don’t know.

Now – my perspective having worked in preschools for over ten years is that for some children it is a great environment where they can learn a lot and socialize and interact with other children. For some children going to preschool is a saving grace, especially if they come from abusive home environments. But unfortunately for many it is quite a brutal and rough experience, not only because they are in a new environment with people they don’t know, but also because preschools aren’t really geared to taking care of so many young children, both when it comes to the physical facilities as well as the amount and education level of the preschool teachers.

In Sweden preschool teachers are formally known as ‘pedagogues’. The word pedagogue comes from Greek and in ancient Greece pedagogues were literally the slaves who were responsible for bringing boys from their home to their teacher. Preschools were thus also originally created to be ‘holding’ or ‘waiting’ facilities where children are kept until they are ready to go to school.  Preschools were initially established when women joined the work force and thus could no longer stay at home with their children in the years before attending school. This definition of preschools as ‘holding facilities’ still live on today, but in a much more subtle and practical fashion because the schools now have various forms of curricular and follow certain goals and education policies set up based on academic research on child development and research on how children are best prepared to start in school around the age of 6. This is specifically the case in Sweden for example where all preschools, private as well as public must follow a national curricular specifying what children are to learn during their time in preschool.

Preschools therefore operate with two very different agendas; one is where preschools are given importance in terms of understanding the developmental processes a child goes through before the age of 6 and accordingly have goals that specify what the schools must teach and what the children are supposed to learn. The other is a much more calculated definition of preschools as mere holding facilities or waiting areas where children are ‘stored’ until they can go to school because it enables their mothers to go to work and thus partake in keeping the wheels of the country’s economy rolling. This can be seen especially through the lack of funding given to preschools which in turn has the direct consequence that the physical environments of preschools are often too small and that there are most often too few and uneducated teachers working in the school. So while we have all these academic goals based on serious academic research in child development, this is actually given very little priority when it comes to the practical reality of the daily lives in preschools. This in turn affects the children at a very real and physical level where even starting in preschool can be a traumatic experience. Luckily most children are flexible and adaptable and soon learn how to navigate the preschool environment – but the credit for this goes to them and does certainly not imply that the preschool environment is the best place for a child to learn and develop. I have met many passionate, wonderful and well-educated preschool teachers but I have also met many teachers who see the preschool as an easy job and who have no training or education on how to work with children.

And as a parent you don’t know what happens the moment you leave your child and all you can rely on is that the teachers will care for your child. Unfortunately preschool teachers often the responsibility of monitoring so many children that all they can really do is to make sure that no one gets hurt and that there’s a relative order and control. Very seldom will they have time to actually sit down and talk to your child one on one. Obviously preschools (at least here in Sweden) also do projects or read books to the children. So it is not like all they do is act as schoolyard guards that walk around to maintain control and make sure that no one gets hurt. But with so many children in the classroom it is very difficult to give each child the care that they need. And so we say to ourselves that it is good for children to learn how to wait, how to collaborate, that things don’t always comes easy in life. But is that really what we want them to learn? Is that really the most important lesson we can teach them in preschool?

Now – as a parent you might ask if you are then now supposed to quit your job and pull your child out of school. Obviously this is for most people not possible. And many parents would not even want to stay at home with their children, often because we as parents also receive absolutely no training on how to educate children and therefore often feel powerless and helpless. My perspective is that if you want to and are able to, then sure, that can be a good thing to do. In terms of choosing the right preschool for one’s child it can be very difficult, because often options are very limited, many private preschools are expensive and even if you do follow the child for a couple of days it can be difficult as a parent to know whether the environment actually is best for one’s child or not.

Psychological research have shown that the first seven years of a child’s life are the most important in terms of being the years where a child develop it’s foundation in terms of personality and cognitive abilities. It is also the years where the child is able to learn the most and the quickest. The first seven years thus become the foundation upon which we live the rest of our life. For many children those years are spent in preschools and daycare facilities and therefore it ought to be common sense that the environment a child is spending its days in is prioritized and geared to ensure the most optimal conditions for learning and development. In fact, from this perspective it is rather absurd that the years before a child starts in school are seen merely as preparatory and is therefore given very little priority.

From this perspective we’re at an impasse. As parents we cannot quit our jobs to take care of our children and at the same time we might see that the preschool environment isn’t the best for our child. As preschool teachers, we might be passionate about the children we work with and want to care for them in the best way possible, but we are restricted by lack of funding.

So what is the solution?

Unfortunately there are no short-term solutions. For the time being we have to make the best of the current situation and like I said, luckily most children are very adaptable and quickly learn to navigate the preschool environment. So what we are looking at here are instead long-term solutions. What I mean by that is that what must be changed is the total structure of the current world system – which might sound overwhelming or daunting in its prospects, but we’re really talking about some very specific and straight forward changes that would make a tremendous difference when it comes to those first few very important years of a child’s life.

The Equal Life Foundation’s proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income system is a completely new approach to politics and economics where focus is moved from profit optimization for the few to a sustainable and democratic reform of our political and economic systems functioning based on the principle of what is best for all.

What this would mean in the context of preschool education for example is that the primary priority would no longer be on squeezing as many children as possible into tight spaces or to cut down on teachers just to keep the budget down. What this would mean is that preschool education would no longer be deprioritized as a secondary education where children are merely ‘kept’ until they can start in school and begin their ‘real’ education. Instead of preschools functioning primarily from a starting-point of keeping children occupied so their parents can go to work and make money to support the wheels of consumerism to spin, they will be structured based on research on child development to best serve the well-being of the children. Teaching children would no longer be something one does because it is easy and requires no prerequisites. Instead teachers will be those who are truly passionate about teaching children and who have optimal training to serve the best interest of the children. If you have a look at what I have mentioned above in terms of the changes hat are proposed by the Equal Life Foundation, all that is really required is a change in our starting-point, in how we see children, in how we see education – and most importantly: in how we see money. Because currently all forms of education are limited and restricted by the profit-motive that drives today’s economic policies and ironically, the consequence of this is not that more people prosper or that our economies grow, but in fact that we emaciate our societies in all possible ways. Research has shown that the more equal a society is and the more resources are invested in optimizing the education system, the more the long-term prospering is for society as a whole.

What this would mean in relation to the discussion about preschools is that in a system where education is prioritized based on the principle of what is best for all of society as a whole, is that we would actually be able to safely leave our children in the hands of preschool teachers. We would be able to trust that trained professionals would give our children the best possible care. We would even be able to make the decision to stay at home with our children while they are young without having to worry about how we would survive. Through implementing a Living Income system we have the opportunity to change the focus of our lives from fear of not surviving to actual living in the best possible way, for ourselves and for our children. That is why I am dedicated to not only supporting this system but also to whatever is required to implementing it. Because there are no one that will change the system for us if we don’t start with ourselves. We owe that to our children – and we owe it to ourselves.

You can read more about the Equal Life Foundation’s proposal in regards to Education here:

http://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/living-income-guaranteed-and-education/

You can read more of the blogs I’ve written about preschool education here:

http://teachersjourneytolife.com/2013/11/23/the-devastating-effects-of-the-human-capital-concept-in-preschool-education-day-56/

http://annabrixthomsen.com/2012/09/07/would-you-want-your-child-to-live-your-life/

http://annabrixthomsen.com/2012/08/26/are-you-playing-russian-roulette-with-your-childs-future/

Where Will Following China’s Example Lead Us? DAY 70

Where Will Following China’s Example Lead Us? DAY 70

In the West we increasingly hear about how we need our economies to be able to compete with China’s rising economy and how we need our students to be able to compete with Chinese students in the global knowledge economy. One of the reasons for this is that Chinese students generally test very high on the ever-important international test scores. (See for instance this infograph http://stateimpact.npr.org/ohio/files/2013/10/NAEP-TIMMS-Math-Comparison-WEB.png)

The Chinese education system is build around the country’s so-called socialistic ideals where the young are educated to join the army of worker bees that tirelessly slave away to support the country’s economy to continue rising, more and more resembling a capitalist economy, though with a communistic twist. The question is whether it is the best of either worlds or the worst?

To exemplify what I am talking about, read here the accounts of a Chinese student studying in America:

Study in China is very hard. For most high school, students must wake up about 6 o’clock and arrive school at 7 o’clock. There is no school buses in my small city (Hubei). So I have to ride my bike to school even in the winter (temperature below zero degrees C). And I spend 13 hours in school, 11 hours for class and 2 hours for lunch block. There are 40 mins per class but I have 10 class everyday. The last class is a long class started at 6 p.m. and end at 10 p.m. We had two types of class you can choose in high school, One is more scientific, like biology, chemical, and physical; One is more about literature — history, government, and geography. But there are three subjects people must take, Chinese, math and ENGLISH. In my class, my friends all don’t like English because all of them will never had chance to go aboard. And maybe they will stay in the small city rest of their life. So they didn’t study at all. Same thing happened in all the subjects. So they hated school.

The test in China is not very good. The teacher didn’t care about do you learn in class or at home. The teachers just want to see your grades in the exam. So, as everyone know, some people cheat, and some people did very good job on cheating. Some teachers didn’t even notice that during the test! So the student who never study got very high grade better than other students who study very hard. So people won’t study hard any more. And the student’s life is depended on the final exam, the Entrance exam for college. No matter if you study befor, once you got a very high scored, you can go to the best college. That means your salary is two or three times than normal students after graduate.” (Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mercedes-schneider/chengs-views-on-chinese-a_b_4800192.html)

For those with profit-maximization as the highest priority, such as CEO’s of big companies but also increasingly politicians, imitating China might sound like a fantastic idea. Instead of moving production facilities to China we can simply move the Chinese mentality to our own countries and through effective education (read: indoctrination) ensure that our students will be competitive to take on China in the battle for the global economy.

From a certain perspective it would make sense to follow the countries that for example produce the highest test scores on international academic tests, because they must be doing something right, right? Or to emulate certain aspects of the Chinese economy to boost our own seeing that they have managed to produce growth in the economy while almost all other countries sack pitifully behind. Profit maximization and efficiency has thus become the highest common denominator with China taking the lead and therefore being seen as an example to all other countries following suit.

The problem with all of this is that economic models and strategies are artificial from the perspective that they are manmade structured systems. They aren’t natural or biological. In nature we see far more efficient systems of co-existence such eco-systems where all parts of an environment naturally assist and support all other parts and in turn are supported themselves. On the contrary, with the current system we are seeing an implosion happening where the system is collapsing in on itself. Increasingly we are seeing the consequences of the Chinese view of human beings and it is not to say that we in the West are necessarily that much better at being humane towards each other, but it is alarming to consider that Chinese system is the one we look up to as the master-example what it means to be an effective human being.

We need a new highest common denominator and to implement such a new highest standard in our society we must change our priorities. We must realize that the economy is a man-made constructed system and as such it can be changed. It is not innately optimal simply because that’s the system we have come up with. We must view the economy holistically in context to how all of society benefits from the way it is structured, academically as well as socially and certainly also on a physical level. We can learn from nature’s eco-systems where all parts support each other so that each part is supported and a balance is maintained. It is so simple and yet it is so advanced – making us as humans look barbaric and archaic in resembles. The proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income System will indeed be an upgrade of the current systems to a far more advanced way of living together on earth and yet it is so utterly simplistic in its starting-point of making the highest common denominator that which is Best for All Life.

Resources:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/01/what-us-education-can-learn-from-chinas-factories/251822/

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/jan/14/china-college-vocational-education-skills-training

http://motherboard.vice.com/read/chinese-students-say-they-are-being-forced-to-build-your-next-iphone

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2562672/Pictures-Chinese-man-stripping-dragging-daughter-road.html

http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/horror-on-a-chinese-street-a-nation-awakens-to-its-increasing-inhumanity

 

Are Longer School Days in the Best Interest of Our Children? DAY 69

Are Longer School Days in the Best Interest of Our Children? DAY 69

Politicians in several European countries as well as in the United States have suggested longer school days for public school pupils. The suggestion has in some countries like Denmark been voted in as part of a greater school policy reform in 2012. One of the more sympathetic arguments for implementing this proposal has been to give children more diversity during the school day as well as making creative subjects such as theater and music more available. More cynically it has been suggested that longer school days will lead to better results in international tests such as PISA.

There have been many arguments for and against longer school days. But one of the most prominent is the following:

According to an article in the British newspaper The Telegraph the British secretary of education Michael Cove “proposed a nine or 10-hour day in which activities such as drama, cadets and orchestras that are routine in the private sector would be a fact of life for all state school pupils. That would make it easier for parents to go to work, and cut the cost of childcare. The six-week summer holidays were “designed at a time when we had an agricultural economy,”.

Look, there wouldn’t be anything wrong with a proposal for longer school days – if only the starting-point of this proposal was based on the best interest of the children, which it is clearly not.

Besides all the arguments for and against longer school days, which may or may not be valid, what can be seen within the proposal is also a particular way that politicians view children as future competitors in the global economy, almost like little soldiers being trained and preparing themselves for battle. It seems as though the perk of getting more fun activities is merely a carrot to the stick that is having to spend more time at school. Wanting to give parents better conditions for being able to go to work obviously also isn’t in the best interest of the parents, assuming that they care for the wellbeing of their children.

Increasingly education has become about profit optimization in one way or another and when this is the first priority and starting-point of politicians, these surely cannot be trusted to have our children’s best interest at heart. In fact parents are the only ones (along with a few dedicated and passionate teachers) that truly care about education in context to how it benefits our children, rather than looking at children as investments to best serve a national economy.

We have therefore come to a crossroad. More and more parents are home-schooling their children, but this is obviously a privilege that only those with sufficient funds can afford. And even then, a lot of parents home-school their children based on wanting to teach them certain sub-cultural values and have very little training in how to educate children. Most of us however send our children to school every day in the hopes that the education system protects them and cares for them. Within that we view ourselves, as part of society, simply making due with whatever measures are required. “My child go to school to get an education to make it in life and I provide for them as best as I can by going to work every day.” That’s what most parents think. We see the education system as an extension of the school or ourselves as a facility that takes over where we left off in the morning. But unfortunately that is not what school or education is about, at least anymore.

I daily hear students talk nervously about the amount of national tests they have to take. It is not a small insignificant part of their education, it affects them – greatly. And it affects our work as teachers, because we have to spend more and more time grading children’s academic skills than we do teaching.

Longer school days may or may not be a good idea. As a teacher I cannot even genuinely consider whether it is one or the other. Because my perspective doesn’t matter. Your child’s perspective doesn’t matter. We are here to be soldiers in an economic warfare – a warfare that might be delusional at an absolute level – but that has real casualties and consequences in our children’s lives.

It is the duty of us as parents who care about our children’s wellbeing to take responsibility for making sure that this perspective is not lost in the battled for global economic dominance. If we are not satisfied being pawns in a game of numbers, if we do not want our children to be pawns in a game of numbers – it is up to us to start supporting political solutions that radically change how we view children.

The Equal Life Foundation’s proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income System changes the very foundation upon which political decisions are made from focusing on greed, fear and competition to a commonsensical consideration of the wellbeing of the general community. And because education is always following society’s general direction, the wellbeing of our children will for the first time be an incremental priority at a political level. Then, and only then can we begin having real discussions about points such as longer school days, because the discussions won’t be tainted by a secret agenda that uses diplomacy to enforce its own interests. Instead it will be the best interest of our children that will be starting-point of every discussion, every piece of academic research and every political discussion. This might sound like a utopian fairytale but it is actually only what should have been done already and all it requires is a change in our starting-point.  The sky is the limit to the kind of education system we can create. There are so many innovative and creative changes that could be made to improve the lives of our children, but we cannot even begin discussing such changes until we stop accepting the current system as the most optimal one by default. We got to dare not only thinking out of the box, but stepping out of it too.

Resources:

http://childparenting.about.com/od/schoollearning/a/year-round-school-pros-cons.htm

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationopinion/10614082/Longer-school-days-will-let-pupils-blossom.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/longer-school-days-shorter-holidays-and-45hour-weeks-could-be-the-perfect-manifesto-to-win-the-tories-the-next-election-9095549.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/10637588/Michael-Goves-plans-for-longer-school-day-dealt-huge-blow.html

A Political Awakening of the Young Generation or a Return to 1950’s Survival Strategies? DAY 68

A Political Awakening of the Young Generation or a Return to 1950’s Survival Strategies? DAY 68

youth unemploymentA mother is planning the perfect future for her child. A mother wants her 9-year-old daughter to go to private school so that she can eventually marry a rich man and never have to work. Does this sound like a good idea to you?

On February 12. 2014 a British mother Rachel Ragg published an article about the subject in the Daily Mail. Ragg talks about how she is planning for her daughter to go to Oxford to increase her chances of meeting a wealthy man because that is what she would have wanted for her own life. She talks about how most of the women she know who are juggling both career and children often are left miserable, poor or both and how being a stay at home mom would have been her dream life, had she only married a wealthy man. At the same time there is an irony in Ragg’s appraisal of the life of a stay at home mom, because when she boasts about the £3,000-a-term private school her daughter currently attends, it is the professional merits of its female alums she highlights: ”Cheryl Taylor, controller of CBBC, Kate Bellingham, BBC technology presenter and engineer, and Jocelyn Bell Burnell, the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s first female president.” The irony is that while all of these women attended this prestigious school, yet none of them went on to become a stay at home mom. (Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2557949/I-spend-fortune-send-girl-private-school-shell-marry-rich-never-work-An-unashamed-confession-RACHEL-RAGG.html)

Now – while it would be obvious to discuss gender roles and a regressive return to the 1950’s way of viewing women, I will instead look at Ragg’s perspective from a consideration of where young people currently stand in today’s education system and job market. Because while I disagree with Ragg’s approach of wanting to force her daughter into the kind of life she would have wanted for herself without taking her daughter’s perspective into account, I do see that there is a strategic logic about her approach. Let’s have a look at why that is:

Even with a higher education it has become increasingly difficult to get a job and it doesn’t matter where you live in the world. But especially for the generations under 30 does this ring truer than ever. According to statistics done for the British parliament 920,000 young people aged 16-24 were unemployed in Britain between September and November 2013.
And a report by Richard Vedder, Christopher Denhart, and Jonathan Robe shows that “The proportion of overeducated workers in occupations appears to have grown substantially; in 1970, fewer than one percent of taxi drivers and two percent of firefighters had college degrees, while now more than 15 percent do in both jobs. (Source: http://centerforcollegeaffordability.org/research/studies/underemployment-of-college-graduates)

Another study done by researchers from Northeastern University, Drexel University, and the Economic Policy Institute, based on data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey and the U.S. Department of Labor showed that “About 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor’s degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless or underemployed, the highest share in at least 11 years. In 2000, the share was at a low of 41 percent, before the dot-com bust erased job gains for college graduates in the telecommunications and IT fields.

Out of the 1.5 million who languished in the job market, about half were underemployed, an increase from the previous year.“ (Source: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/04/53-of-recent-college-grads-are-jobless-or-underemployed-how/256237/)

So while the youth of today not alone face great unemployment when they are uneducated, even those with higher education are at risk of not being able to enter the job market or having to take jobs for which they are (at least academically) overqualified for.

A little over ten years ago when I was a youngster coming into the job market we were coming out of the economic ‘golden era’ of the 1990’s where it seemed like all opportunities were open for us. We were therefore told to choose something that would make us happy and fulfilled, something that we were really passionate about. Little did we know that soon enough we would be unwilling participants in one of the greatest economic recessions in the history of the world and that our degrees in literature, journalism and sociology would become redundant. Little did we know that traveling around the world for a few years or island hopping around various fields of education would have the consequence that we would be too late to invest in property, making us eternal slaves to lease agreements on studio apartments. And the generations that came after us have only faced this even more extensively.

Is it therefore so odd that a mother’s biggest goal for her child is to ensure that she gets married rich?

Obviously it is not a very supportive perspective on one’s child’s future if their best opportunity is to marry rich because it is like telling them that any other skills they may have would be worthless. Sending them to demanding private schools without any expectation of academic achievement also isn’t very motivating for a child to do well at school. And thus the problem would come full circle. But at the same time there is also an element of realism in this mother’s approach whereas other parents might still tell their children to follow their dreams and passion in a world system with increasing competition where very few educational fields guarantees work after graduation.

We often talk about how a very small percentage of the world’s population is sitting on most of the monetary resources, but seldom do we consider that these people are all roughly speaking between 35 – 75 years of age. These are also the same people who are for example able to invest in the property market making it increasingly difficult for people under 30 to enter into the property market. And while it may be attractive for a few young women to strategically target a rich older man, it is also an indication of the severity of the situation we are finding ourselves in, if we have to regress to survival strategies deployed and archived more than 40 years ago (obviously only in wealthy countries). Young uneducated men are the most vulnerable group of unemployed and some statistics say that youth unemployment in Southern Europe have reached staggering heights of 50-60 percent.

So as is evident by now, returning to 1950’s gender roles might seem alluring and as an easy way out for some young women, it is certainly not a solution to the overall problem we are facing.

We are reaching a dangerously critical mass and with apathy and delusion accompanying the rocketing unemployment and student loan rates, it is of great importance that young people start coming together to develop a sustainable solution. Because we are currently supporting a small group of rich people in their efforts to maximize profits with the consequence that we are continuously at the brink of destroying the planet we live on just in the hopes that we might one day become them.

It is the first time in history that the young people coming into the world are facing a situation that is worse than their parents – and this can only mean one thing: that the older generations do not have our best interests at heart. Therefore it is up to us to ensure a change in paradigms. The good thing about all of this is that young people aren’t as stuck in their ways as the older generations. And this means that we’ve actually got a shot at establishing a new and improved way of living together on earth – if we pull our resources together and stand united in the aim of making sure that our children do not have to face a world that is worse off. It is up to us to be the example our parents so clearly never was.

Investigate the Proposal for a Guaranteed Living Income System – a proposal for a system that has the potential to fundamentally change the concept of ‘work’ from something that we do to survive to something that we do to support and expand ourselves to thrive and LIVE.

I also recommend reading the following blogs:
Parenting – Perfecting the Human Race Series
Natural Learning Abilities blog series – a MUST READ!
Automation is the Key to Effective Education
Education in the New World Order
Education – Equal Money Wiki
Education is a Human Right
Deconstructing the Root of All Evil
World’s best Education is based on Equality
The Fall of our Education System
Application of Knowledge, is it being Fostered in our Educational Systems? – Education Research Part 1

Additional sources:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21302065
http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2013/06/07/the-unemployment-news-is-worse-for-many/
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nC4N6aLb2jE
http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/uk-youth-unemployment-million-jobs-work-foundation-499067
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/nearly-a-million-under25s-still-unemployed-despite-growth-8935723.html
http://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/nov/29/eurozone-youth-unemployment-record-high-under-25s
http://www.good.is/posts/young-educated-and-unemployed-a-new-generation-of-kids-search-for-work-in-their-20s

What I have Learned About Education from Teaching: DAY 67

What I have Learned About Education from Teaching: DAY 67

In the last post I talked about the past year where I have been teaching and I looked at the point of going to work every day and the experiences that come up within that of how we often drag ourselves to work in the morning only to find a brief relief for a short moment during weekends.
In this post I am going to review the last year I have worked as a teacher in terms of what I have learned from teaching.
Because as I looked back upon the last year I realized that I have learned more about education in this short time than in all my years of higher education.  I’ve worked with education for more than ten years, first as a teacher’s aid in various facilities such as kindergartens, after school programs and care homes for disabled people.
My first degree was a professional bachelor (undergraduate) degree in pedagogy which in a Danish context means that I would be schooled to take care of human beings both within the child care system, but for example also addicts or mentally disabled people. So it is a very broad education. But during the years where I studied I was continuously surprised at how academic this education was. We learned very little about how to care for children or people with mental illnesses. Instead we learned about the history of pedagogy and took lessons in theater and music. We did have 2 x 6 months of practical internship, which is where I realized that I wasn’t going to work as a social worker or preschool teacher because I was so unsatisfied with the current care facilities and this actually brought me to go to the next step of going for a master degree with the intend of eventually working with changing the educational systems.
So I went to university to study educational sociology, a term that I find quite misrepresentative as what I have studied is not an educational form of sociology or how to teach sociology but rather the sociology of education and thus education systems, philosophies and principles within society. We would read all the classics, which is actually what we would do throughout the two years where I studied. A lot of it was fascinating and it certainly wasn’t boring but I kept asking myself (as well as the professors) what the point with all of this was. To me it was just a lot of mudding around in knowledge and information – because a lot of the theorists had cool thoughts on how to change reality, but then another theorist would come and counter argue and many years of intellectual battles would ensue leading nowhere in practical reality. I spent my final year as an exchange student at Stockholm University in Sweden and there I for the first time experienced a significant benefit of higher education. Ironically it was through a course on gender and feminist theory and not education and one of the reasons why I learned so much was because we had guest lecturers by Ph.D. graduates who had been in the field and done actual research. They connected theory to practicality and this gave the theories a backbone that I hadn’t experienced before.
Now – last year I started teaching. In many ways I am not qualified to this job because as you can see, most of my training has been strictly academic. I guess you could say that I am educated more to theorizing, to researching and thinking than to actually spend time in practical reality and effectively direct points in the real world. Like I mentioned in the last blog-post, when I came there were no material or curriculum and I had never before stood before a class. So everything was completely and absolutely new and I had a lot to learn. Furthermore I am the only teacher within my language group so although I can rely on my colleagues for points that has to do with general stuff around teaching, a lot of times I have to work things out for myself. So every day is filled with learning new and practical things, like how to communicate with children, parents and school employees, how to teach, how to create a curriculum, how to schedule my time effectively and how the school system works. And in many respects I have learned more about education in this year than in all my years studying education as a theoretical subject.
A lot of times we see people who have been academically schooled, like politicians and various consultants come in and write proposals for changes within a field or working environment and often these proposals seem so utterly out of touch with reality for the people who actually work ‘on the floor’.  It is thus no wonder that a lot of highly educated people have trouble finding jobs in the current system because many of these educations, especially within the humanities does not gear the students to a practical working life, and so we learn a lot about thinking, analyzing and philosophizing, but very little about placing those theories into a practical context.
Plato thought that it was the philosophers of society who were meant to be rulers and leaders because they had the capacity to reflect objectively on reality and thus were able to see what would be best for society as a whole, but what I have found is that it is the people who are in the thick of it every day who has the most commonsensical ideas for how to change the system.
I would go as far as saying that in many respects we don’t need to keep philosophizing and producing knowledge, because within the fields of knowledge-production there is a lot of repetition and regurgitation where it seems as though knowledge is produced for no other sake than producing knowledge – it is an inflation. What we need, especially in these times are innovative and transparent ideas that can be practically implemented and that are based, not only on theoretical reflections but also on practical experience. Obviously one can also get so caught up in practicing in one’s field that one starts growing blind to new possibilities and ways of looking at things. And this is where theoretical reflection becomes applicable and useful. But knowledge without a practical dimension is useless.
Of everything that I have learned in the last year one of the primary points has been to remain open, flexible and humble towards the children and teachers and environments that I meet on a daily basis. This learning process has primarily come from a point of slowly building up reactions of resistance, reluctance and irritation for example towards specific children who might not be as enthusiastic towards learning as others. It will show itself in thoughts where I would project myself in to the future in my mind and think: “oh god, now I’m going to that child, that’s not going to be fun, he’s always so resistant.” The consequence of this approach to my work is that I will literally encase and limit myself to specific expectations and experiences and will plainly speaking get into a ‘bad mood’. And it is certainly not fair or respectful towards the children – no matter the demeanor they meet me with – because I decide before hand ‘who’ they are and within that do not allow for any other expression to open up. So as I have explained in previous blogs, what I have done to stop this from escalating is to firstly stop the thoughts when I see them ‘pop up’ in my mind, but to also place myself in a stance of unconditionally embracing the uniqueness of the moment that I am walking into. And this has assisted the point of humbleness to develop within my work, which in turn has allowed me to discover new and unknown dimensions, not only of the children but also of the teachers, the school environment and of myself.
Today I attended a mandatory course in pedagogical documentation in preschools. It is basically about using various forms of documentation and observation like video and audio recording to expand oneself in one’s work as a teacher. There was within this an example from a Canadian preschool where a researcher and preschool teacher spontaneously had started a project with a group of children within which she took their interests and from there lifted these into an educational process of development. One of the things they did for example was to discuss and investigate McDonalds and their happy meal boxes, something that often catches the attention of children. They did so in a way where they eventually were able to discuss pricing, salaries, gender discrimination and nutrition – and this was a group of three to five year olds. This example showed me yet again how much I still have to learn and how important it is to learn from the people that have gone before us, who can give practical examples and provide learning-by-doing guidelines for how to approach a certain topic. Because within my work I often see that there is more to it, like a deeper meaning or the possibility to take the project to another level of development – but I have not had the practical tools to do so. Here theories are cool to assist oneself in reflecting, but what is needed most of all are practical suggestions and ways of working with the material.
What I want to say with all of this is that this entire point and what I have realized about my learning process can be transferred into a larger societal context in looking at how much we preoccupy ourselves with virtual realities and abstract knowledge, thinking and believing that this is what is needed to transform ourselves, the systems we live in or even the world as a whole.
One day I came to a preschool where the children (ages 0-3) were sitting around a table with containers filled with dry chickpeas, rice and other grainy products. Each of them would have two containers, one filled, the other one empty and perhaps a spoon or a whisk. The children were completely immersed within the activity, which basically consisted of sticking their hands into the containers and taking rice or seeds from one container to another or whisking it around. I sat down and participated and enjoyed the exploration of chickpeas together with my two-year old student. Later I discussed the activity with one of the older teachers at the preschool and she explained to me how she had made it a priority to use materials from real life rather than plastic imitations in her work. This makes complete sense to be, because we are so fascinated by imitative products that we quite often forget the wonders of actual reality – the reality that we’re supposed to grow up and participate in, but that we are taught to remain completely disconnected from.
Conclusively I will say that all of us, no matter where we are in life or what kind of work we do, need to get back to physical reality, because this is where our attention is required considering the conditions of the current world-system. And within turning our focus and attention back to reality, to nature, to animals, to our bodies, to practical living – we might discover new and unseen dimensions that give us the opportunity to look at ourselves in a new way.
Investigate the Proposal for a Guaranteed Living Income System – a proposal for a system that has the potential to fundamentally change the concept of ‘work’ from something that we do to survive to something that we do to support and expand ourselves to thrive and LIVE.
I also recommend reading the following blogs:

Education in the New World Order

Education is a Human Right
Deconstructing the Root of All Evil
World’s best Education is based on Equality
The Fall of our Education System
Application of Knowledge, is it being Fostered in ourEducational Systems? – Education Research Part 1

What You Should Ask Yourself About Why You Go to Work Every Day: DAY 66

What You Should Ask Yourself About Why You Go to Work Every Day: DAY 66

Today I am taking inventory and within that re-committing myself to the work that I am doing as a teacher – with a new starting-point and direction. I invite you to walk with me here:

It has been a year since I started working as a teacher in the Swedish school system.
Today one of my students asked me if I liked teaching children. She is 7. I answered that I like it a lot and this is true. I learn something new every day, about children, about communication, about relationships, about the school system, about scheduling and organizing and about teaching. It has taken me the better part of a year to establish an effective way of teaching. When I started the job, I came to a position where no lesson material or books existed, without any experience with teaching. (I’ve worked in preschools previously but never with older children in a school setting). So it has taken me quite a while to build up lesson materials and a functioning curricular. In addition to this, I teach 40 children from age 1 – 16 who is each on completely different levels and thus requires some form of individual lesson plan. I teach them on up to 25 different schools so I spend my week taking the bus or train or ride my bike from place to place, having almost more time transporting myself around than I do actually teaching. The time dedicated to planning my lessons are allocated to evenings, early mornings, weekends and holidays and I have finally found a way that works for me and where the students actually learn something and where I don’t have to spend every waking moment thinking about schedules and planning lessons.

I have been told by my colleagues, who has been the single most important point of support in this process, that it takes up to 2 years before a new teacher is ‘settled’ and can stop running around like a beheaded chicken. Because a lot of what I do can only work in a trial-and-error kind of fashion and I have learned that this is okay. This job has been humbling to me. And when I when I came back this January after the Christmas holidays I was very reluctant and resisted going to work. When it has been at its worst, I have thought only about making it through the week, counting the days until the weekend and then felt frustrated and stressed when realizing how short the Saturdays and Sundays goes by.

So today I had a chat with myself about this point, about how I’ve pitied myself because I have to go to work, about how petrified and desperate I’ve felt every week when Monday came around. I know that many people in this world feel the same way; we know that we are virtually existing as work-hamsters in the hamster wheel of the global economy, we know that there is no escape, we know that we have no choice but to do it – – and still there is a part of us, an awareness that this is not how it is supposed to be, that this is not how life is supposed to be. Now – obviously within the current world-system there are no alternatives to the daily rut of day (and night) labor in all its various shapes and forms. Sure, we are offered the seductive illusory carrot that is American Idol or Professional sports – but we all know how slim the chances of getting into such a position are, how few people win the lottery.  And if you’ve seen the movies The Island or The Matrix or the Hunger Games you know for a fact that there is no bounty beach waiting for us at the end of a hard working life. (If not I suggest go watching them).

So what I realized as I was having this chat with myself while walking through slush ice from one school to another is that the situation is what it is. I cannot change the fact that I have to get up and go to work each morning and that when Monday morning comes, the whole cycle repeats itself, week after week, year after year.

What I can change is my starting-point within how I experience myself and how I see the situation. Because – I am here, all limbs intact. My work is not dangerous or debilitating. I don’t have to work two or three jobs to support a family – which is a faith bestowed upon millions of people in this world. I am fortunate enough to even have a job. In fact, I have a cool opportunity within my current position in the world to establish stability within an effective work ethic and myself as I go about my day. I am grateful for everything that I am learning every day. I am grateful for the interaction with the children that I meet. And so I decide to change my starting-point – not because I have suddenly realized how good I have it compared to other people. It is not that kind of realization, although that is something that I have also had to open my eyes to, in terms of understanding how and why I have reacted the way I did, basically do to having lead an incredibly luxurious (read: spoiled) life until now where I’ve spent the last twenty years educating myself in a soft-core education system without any accountability on my part. So it is obvious in this context that it has ‘shocked’ me to enter into the ‘work-force’ and become part of the worker bees of society, a shock that I can imagine most people go through when they realize what it actually means to become an adult in this world.

The realization however has to do with an understanding that, yes, the current system is fucked beyond borders – but there is nothing I can currently do about it. And I am certainly not going to retract to a cabin in the woods just because I can, because that would be traitorous to this very realization and delusional in fact. So the only choice I have left is to be a good little iRobot and produce, produce, produce, in my case produce well-educated children – and while I am doing that and becoming effective at my work, I am slowly but surely standing myself up to recreate this desolated world along with everyone else who has realized the same within their lives – because that is the only choice I can make. That is the only way I can change this situation. And it might not be in my lifetime or in yours. But if I do not want to live this kind of life where work is something we do for the sake of deluded entity called the ‘world economy’ and not to support ourselves and each other to life the best possible life, I wouldn’t want it for the children that I teach either. I do not want them to grow up with the illusion that we have to exist like rats in a maze eating our own tail to survive.

And so this becomes my self-empowerment. And the point of ‘me’ and ‘them’ in the equation dissipates – because it is about the bigger picture now, about all of us. So I go to work in gratefulness, because I have a job, because it doesn’t kill me, because I get to educate myself on how the system works, how the human psyche works. And while I do so I have the opportunity to walk my process of becoming a self-directed individual, who no longer is governed by preprogrammed response and reactive patterns. I have the opportunity to transcend the symptoms of this diseased system such as stress, anxiety and frustration – experiences that I have allowed myself to go into on a daily basis because I was resisting the situation that I am in. I was hoping it would change. I was so spoiled that I felt like it was unfair that I am in this position. But within that reaction was a realization. And that realization is that what we’re doing here on this planet is unacceptable. That realization is that it doesn’t have to be this way, for any of us.

That realization is that this is not what life is and can be – this is not living. And so, I accept the fact that I cannot change it tomorrow and that I have to go to work. But I realize that I don’t have to stress about it, I don’t have to lose anything of myself. I don’t have to feel like I’m wasting my time. I don’t have to feel like I would rather be somewhere else. I don’t have to look at the clock every ten minutes just to see how many hours are left until I can go home. No – I can immerse myself within my work. I can walk my process as I participate in the world-system. I can dedicate myself to do my job with integrity and common sense and remain open to the moments of opportunity that emerge where I can make a difference. And by doing so I can make myself an example, however humble and meager at fi